POSTED ON MAY 5, 2010:
After a ride down to SXSW, Paul Benjaman Band hits a new groove with self-titled CD
Getting It Right. Before heading into the studio, Paul Benjaman Band first discussed what they wanted to accomplish and was adamant that it didnít want to be confused with a jam band, which is plain and clear on its self-titled debut album.
Have you ever picked up one of those albums (or in this case, CD's) that's so relaxed and natural in its tone that you almost overlook it?
You know what I'm talking about: It's that disc in your collection that flows so smoothly, it plays through before you realize it. The one where all of the players are incredibly solid, yet know their roles.
Even though it might become one of your old standbys, there's not one particular song or solo that really jumps out and stands front and center for you. Chances are, that disc will become (or has become) the one that you defer to, whether at home or in the car, for years to come.
Normally there's much pomp and circumstance that goes with a CD release -- not to mention the overwhelming praise and an overabundance of superlatives used to describe the new tunes. For one local band, however, breaking the rules seems to be the rule.
If you haven't figured out who I'm talking about yet, it's Paul Benjaman Band. Benjaman and his crew haven't just become one of Tulsa's best and favorite live bands, earning a spot to represent our fair city at this year's SXSW festival and conference in Austin, but they've done it on their own terms.
Originally founded in December of 2007 with Josh Raymer, Chris Combs and Matt Hayes (each of whom eventually migrated to Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey), Paul Benjaman band quietly transformed into the band it is now, found its groove and developed its own identity and sound. Although the group has settled in with a quartet of monstrously talented musicians, the band is never demonstrative, letting the groove and music do all of the talking.
Even the CD release party for the group's debut disc, being held Friday, May 7, at Bob's breaks all of the standard rules of engagement for a new disc.
Instead of holding everything back and dropping it all at once, the band finished its CD earlier in the spring, just in time to get it shipped to them at the hotel in Austin and start distributing it at SXSW. Since then, the band has had the disc available for purchase at its shows, letting the buzz grow organically, and lead up to a party this weekend that isn't so much a release party as celebration of the music.
When discussing the new disc and how the band has released it, Benjaman said, "I think it's better that way, to let it trickle in slowly. We've gotten a lot of good feedback, with two or three people commenting on it almost every day."
But just what is it that makes this disc stand out? In all honesty, that's what is so hard to explain.
The easiest (and probably most vague) way to describe it is to call it a natural extension of the classic "Tulsa sound." A touch of country, a dash of blues and a little rock all come together, but the way Paul Benjaman Band does it, it doesn't become your standard Americana fare.
Yes, there's a hint of jam band goodness in there, but that's really not the band's identity. Instead, it's some oddly natural combination of everything that's come out of Tulsa's past, from the country swing of Bob Wills, to the laid back blues and rock of J.J. Cale and Leon Russell, a touch of jazz and everything in between.
Just take a quick listen and try to explain it yourself. From the country swing of "Western Trailways" to the concise, bluesy hook of "I Got Some Devil" to the lazy bounce of "Stop Me Now," it all flows together effortlessly.
"A lot of it is stuff I was listening to and my parents were listening to as I grew up," Benjaman said. "Once I got to a point where it started coming out, it was almost like slipping into an old pair of shoes -- it was just that comfortable and easy.
"Since I've been in this area of the state pretty much all my life, it just seemed like I was tapping into the past and it fit really well," he said. "And when I finally came around to discovering Steve Pryor (who made an appearance playing pedal steel on the new disc), I realized just how much talent and history there is here. It all comes naturally because it's in the water or something," he said with a chuckle.
Even so, not many groups can so effectively condense their influences and make them their own. That's a testament not only to Benjaman's abilities but to those of his band members. Drummer Andrew Bones and bassist Bo Hallford have played together since the eighth grade, making them an undeniable foundation as a rhythm section and the inclusion of Khadija Goz on keyboards and vocals, adds another dimension to the band's sound.
While Benjaman admits the secret to this band is the level of musicianship and that the group rehearses rarely, he's also very intentional about the group's sound and direction.
He also said that before recording the disc, the group talked about what they wanted to accomplish and was adamant that it didn't want to be confused with a jam band.
As such, even though the group had already been playing the songs live, they had two rehearsals before entering the recording studio to set the tempo of the songs and cut out any unnecessary parts. The resulting disc is packed tight with 12 concise tracks that highlight the band's strengths and leave room for the band to breathe in a live setting.
Perhaps most telling of the band's maturity is what it got from SXSW this year. According to Benjaman, in years past, SXSW has been more about getting signed to major label. This year, he felt the vibe had changed and was more about showing bands what and how much they could do as an independent artist.
"Right now, I'm thinking in terms of 'How far can I spread this out?' and 'how many people can I get our music in front of?'" Benjaman said. "We got a really good response at SXSW, but found out we're really kind of in our own genre. That's what SXSW showed us.
"Maybe it's because it's really so (focused), even though it doesn't seem like it on the surface," he said. "We've found we're carving our own niche and paving our own way."
Whatever the case, Paul Benjaman Band is definitely making waves and doing it on the band's own terms. Even the band's CD celebration party is twisted from the norm. By making it a free, all-ages show at Bob's on Friday evening, the band is hoping everyone will come out and see how broad the music's appeal is. And although the disc has been available for weeks, now is the time to celebrate its release and let everyone sing along.
OK Sweetheart will open the show at 8pm and Erin Austin will also reprise her role from the CD by providing backing vocals, making this the closest recreation of the disc that you'll likely be able to see live. OK Sweetheart's Rob Gungor, who helped produce and engineer the disc, might also sit in on keys for a few songs, and Jesse Aycock has been confirmed to sit in on pedal steel as well.
All in all, it will be a great night to showcase what Tulsa's music has been all about, from past to present. If you haven't caught on yet, you won't want to miss it.
Is There a Problem?
Apparently there was a complaint made with the Brady Arts council last month, which resulted in this Tuesday night's ICP concert being moved from the outdoor stage in the Brady Arts Village to the Convention Center.
Although I'm not an Insane Clown Posse fan and find most of their "juggalo" fans to be annoying, their largely harmless. Even so, I have to wonder what the perception is for someone to complain enough for the show to be moved.
After all, just a few summers ago the "Sounds of the Underground" Tour landed an all-day lineup of metal on the outdoor stage that saw bands like Lamb of God, Otep, GWAR, Devil Driver, Madball, Chimaira and Every Time I Die unleash all kinds of sonic chaos on the neighborhood without a single reported arrest or complaint.
Whatever the case, the "Happy Daze" Tour has been moved to the Convention Center on May 11. If you've got your tickets already, pay attention or you'll be confused when you arrive. If you haven't gotten tickets, it may still be worth checking out as the lineup is all aver the board: Insane Clown Posse, Coolio, Necro, Kittie and Kottonmouth Kings. Granted, it's not normally my thing, but if it's enough to get someone that riled up, I might have to support it just on the principle of rock & roll. Tickets are $30 in advance or $35 at the door, and the show starts at 6pm.
With the weather fluctuating back and forth between downright warm and chilly with rain, I can't decide if it's spring or summer yet. Even so, it's a great season for live music in Tulsa as the local shows continue to build.
You already know where you should be on Friday night -- supporting Paul Benjaman Band at Bob's -- but we've got plenty more highlights to get you started out the door to catch some of the best gigs of the week.
Thursday night is relatively quiet this week, but if you're up for going out on May 6, you can still catch Cairde na Gael at Arnie's or kick back and relax with Sheldon Clark and Steve McCabe at Hunt Club, where the outdoor patio and stage promises to be one of my favorite haunts this summer.
Friday night's options include the big show at BOK Center with Hank Williams Jr., Jamey Johnson, The Grascals and Eric Church for country music fans. Elsewhere around town on May 7, Triplefang plays Mercury Lounge, Flatland Travelers are at Eclipse, and Soundpony hosts Algebra, DJ Nutter and Lizard Police.
Saturday, May 8, has a couple of bigger events in store. Cage the Elephant play Cain's Ballroom with Morning Transportation and AutoVaughn for the more music oriented crowd while Flytrap Events Center hosts "Big Rich's Twisted Carnival" for the spectacle minded. It's an adult-themed carnival with, the A.G.R.O. Suspension Team, music by Dr. Squealsgood and burlesque featuring Kira Von Sutra.
If you're looking for blues and American on Saturday evening, you'd do better to settle in with Ben Miller Band at Mercury Lounge or Dustin Pittsley at Arnie's. Meanwhile, Soundpony caters to the indie crowd with GHOSTS and Masses, while the dance crowd will migrate to Marquee for the monthly Assimilation party.
Cain's Ballroom corners the market to begin the week with Bullet For My Valentine, Chiodos and Airbourne on Sunday, May 9 and the return of A Day To Remember with August Burns Red and Silverstein on Monday, May 10. It's hard to believe I saw ADTR just a few short years ago at Crush Lounge and now they're close to selling out Cain's. They've certainly grown over the years.
After the show, you can stop in at Soundpony and wrap your evening with Mosquito Bandito if you need some indie-rock to cool you down.
Finally, don't forget to wrap your week up on Tuesday night with either the ICP tour at the Convention Center, Talib Kweli and Hi-Tek at Cain's or The Maine with The Summer Set at Marquee.
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