Friday, June 28, 2013

Review - Arlon Bennett : World of Possibility

We’re all drawn to honesty in music. No matter the genre, whether it is hip-hop or heavy metal, we long for our musical muses to reach out and touch us with sounds and lyrics that carry themselves with an air of authenticity, relevance, and connection. And it’s those best artists, those that have stood the test of time, that manage to continue to captivate audiences with their ability to, time and again, deliver honest music.

If he keeps on pace, Arlon Bennett is a name that will bandied about with those artists who have, and are, making music that connects in that way. Calling Long Island, New York, home, the artist is set on making music that carries his simple philosophy, “Shoot for the moon and ask questions later,” capturing elements of folk and singer-songwriter stars like Harry Chapin and James Taylor. Since the release of his debut album in 1998, Fountain of Dreams, the artist has seen solid success, scoring opening acts for Americana stars Glenn Tilbrook, Jill Sobule, and Tom Paxton while as being honored by being “twice selected by Noel ‘Paul’ Stookey (Peter, Paul & Mary) to perform in his Music-to-Life showcase at the Kerrville Folk Festival featuring America's best songs of social consciousness.”

Now, the artist continues his mission to bring his dreams to life, while igniting those of others, on his heartfelt new release, World of Possibility. Coaxing classic folk sounds from his guitar and writing lyrics about real life, Bennett captures and captivates the heart here. It’s not fancy and sports no frills, much like a meal at the county diner, but its “stick-to-your-ribs” good, leaving you full and satisfied at the end.

Bennett’s key to providing this satisfaction to his listeners is in large part due to his prowess as a storyteller. Through a simple, homespun tale of an elementary school janitor, “Sal,” Bennett manages to grab the heartstrings and teach a lesson. Likewise, the snow-laden sadness of “The Christmas Tree on Salem Street” weaves a tale of holidays left sad by the loss of loved ones in the military, daring one to not wipe away the inevitable tear. And the artist’s heartland-fueled personification of the U.S., “I America,” complete with its soulful harmonica fills, has the potential of adding itself to many a listener’s Independence Day playlist.

Inspired by an invitation to perform at an international Parkinson’s conference, Bennett wrote the title track, conveying an acoustic-driven melody that brims with hope and confidence while “Nothing Like a Song” captures some old school country vibes, telling of the power of music. It’s simple and, some might say, hokey, but there’s an inherent honesty to it all.

The highlight track here, however, is Bennett’s playful and unique song, “Question for Einstein.” Celebrating the joy and mystery of love, Bennett ponders questions to the great physicist, asking in the chorus, “Dr. Einstein/The question I would ask/If you were alive and I was sitting in your class/Of all the beauty in your mind/Of all you know of space and time/What is love?” Bennett plays with asking these questions of Einstein, adding in some soulful strings, and ultimately concluding in the end, “Well you ran out of time/Before you could find/The answer to all that is/But I will keep on searching/To find the inertia/Behind a single kiss.” It’s sweet, poignant, and from the heart.

And those are the elements that truly make up Arlon Bennett’s work on World of Possibility. Clearly working as a glass half-full sort of guy, Bennett presents warmhearted, honest songs of real life and real people, continually seeming to find the silver lining in each situation. He frames these tales in musical compositions that mirror their lyrical counterparts, coming across as accessible and inviting. So, come on in and sit a spell and let Bennett tell you a tale.

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