Review: Ben Bedford – Valley Of Stars


Ben Bedford - Valley Of Stars

Ben Bedford – Valley Of Stars
Format: CD – Digital / Label: Hopeful Sky Records
Release: 2023

Tekst: Bert van Kessel

Ben Bedford from Illinois is a gentle soul, which is reflected in his very listenable songs. He is an excellent songwriter who only needs few words to paint a profound picture. Fortunately he is frequently welcomed to European stages where he has amassed a large following; not as large as in the States where he is ranked among the best singer/songwriters ever, garnering numerous prizes.

This is his sixth solo album not counting a compilation of his first three, named ‘Portraits.’

After writing dozens of songs during lockdown, a period when he was going through a difficult time in his personal life, Ben discovered that many of these songs had a common theme, the search for connection, comfort and joy. So he had created a concept album. It turned out to be a true parable,  and its main character was his alter ego, Hare. Music, lyrics and artwork were all conceived and executed by Ben with the support of a small circle of excellent musicians, most notably Chas Williams as second guitarist.

The eleven tracks are delivered in a rather fixed setting, very much like a chamber ensemble, with two acoustic guitars, bass, cello and vocals, Ben’s and Kari Floyd on harmonies. Because of this fixed setting there is little musical diversity, so the strength of the story must carry the album.

The powerful and immersive opening track Leaping tells  us straightaway what this album is all about: exquisite interplay of the two acoustic guitars, sweet vocals,and a dark cello creating a menacing atmosphere: Hare sets out on his story of adventure.

In the intimate second track, Wolves, Hare stumbles upon a pack of hunting wolves: the danger is skilfully embodied by eerie vocals. And so Hare travels on in search of connection, and of course the story has a happy ending. It is difficult to select individual tracks, as they are very much alike. But the uptempo  Darkflight has a wonderful acoustic slide .

After a most relaxing instrumental Stars and Skywheel which makes it easy to envisage a star-spangled sky,there is the cheerful ditty Weasel, Pike, Fox & Kite (with again a very  impressive contribution on bass by Ethan Jodziewicz), when Hare has completed his quest and finds peace of mind, which is confirmed in the beautiful closing track In The Shelter Of Indomitable Momma Badger.

If you are drawn into the story there is a lot to be enjoyed here. If not, this album suffers from a certain degree of monotony.

01. Leaping
02. Wolves
03. Darkflight
04. Murmurations
05. Leopard & Hare
06. Hare on the Down
07. In the Court of the Bear
08. Adder
09. Stars & Skywheel
10. Weasel, Pike, Fox, & Kite
11. In the Shelter of Indomitable Momma Badger