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FUV's New Dig: Benjamin Booker

by Darren DeVivo

Benjamin Booker
Benjamin Booker
ATO Records

Benjamin Booker is a new artist poised to make a unique mark on the current landscape of American rock. His debut album, Benjamin Booker, sounds nothing like what we have heard in the past. This is no small feat. It’s not easy to create something fresh and new using the same basic materials as others who have come before. Booker taps into both the old masters as well as his contemporaries and – like Victor Frankenstein building the perfect beast – he takes bits and pieces from these influences to create new life. As if he is declaring his arrival, Booker sings, “I’m a new beginning,” in the song “Wicked Waters."

Booker might sound like he is an old soul, but he is still in his early 20s. He was born in the Tampa Bay area but has settled in New Orleans, which seems like the appropriate place for him to be. Booker draws on sounds as diverse as the Los Angeles punk blues of the Gun Club and the Texas gospel blues of Blind Willie Johnson. These influences are apparent when listening to Booker’s music, but you can also see where Jack White and The Black Keys could fit too. The music on Booker’s self-titled debut album rumbles and roars like a powerful, relentless engine, spitting out sparks and smoke, and his frantic strumming is matched with pounding drums providing a driving pace that rarely lets you come up for air. This is best demonstrated in the metal on metal epic, “Have You Seen My Son?”. Even when the pace slows, like on “I Thought I Heard You Screaming”, the emotional impact still packs a punch.

Booker sings in a dry, raw, guttural croak that’s honest and real, and it festers amid the mayhem. The album opens with Booker playing a Chuck Berry riff on “Violent Shiver” and “Happy Homes” grooves along at a cruising speed, while the bluesy “Kids Never Growing Older” bludgeons its message home. On the whole, the Benjamin Booker album has sounded the call. American rock and soul’s new voice is Benjamin Booker.