‘Intricate picking patterns and raw, yet warming vocals make it a stylish musical masterpiece.’
Intro to Ben Simmons
One of the best parts about discovering new artists is that you never know when you are going to make a surprise find. So, when I was contacted by singer-songwriter-guitarist Ben Simmons and heard his latest track ‘Do You Hear the Rain?’ I knew I had to make him the #FridayFindsFeaturedArtist for this week. Given the number of monthly listeners on his Spotify, there is every chance you haven’t heard of him. But that’s exactly why I am sharing him with you. Taking influence from the likes of Ed Sheeran and Ben Howard, his music connects instantly and while he asks if we hear the rain, I reckon it won’t be long before many more people are asking ‘Have you heard Ben Simmons?’. Read more at: Behind the Music: Interview with Ben Simmons.
Opening with a beautiful combination of dominant rainfall and bluesy electric guitar, the essence of Ben’s latest track is truly captured. Meandering through the downpour, we are encouraged to step indoors and let the musicality wash over us instead. It may only be seconds in, but it’s quite the atmosphere and turning to become acoustically centred, an intimate sound comprised of effortlessly finger-picked acoustic guitar and piano emerges.
Establishing the harmonic progressions within the track, the instrumental elements are a showcase of the material that is to feature throughout. However, heavily layered it’s near impossible to distinguish the individual fragments resulting in the multiple ideas sounding as one. Aside from the content itself, it also provides early evidence of the production that is to be applauded throughout the track. Hearing every pick, percussive hit and slide of Ben’s intricate playing, it feels incredibly personal. But with the vocals about to join, the connection is to grow further.
Delivering the line of ‘Last night I dreamt I was in love’ in a way that balances rawness and polished vocal tones, we get a sense of meaning behind the lyricism that is to follow. Engaging and grabbing us, we are ready to listen to the reflective story unfold and set to the accompaniment that has just been formed, our focus is exactly where it needs to be. Ensuring that this remains the case, changes in terms of instrumentation and it’s content are minimal but, when they do occur, they add the perfect amount of interest.
Noticably absent to this point, the introduction of percussive elements in the more developed sound of the second verse gives the track momentum. However, much like our experience of the first verse, we are constantly drawn back to the ever-growing vocal. Containing intricately rhythmic drumming and more prominent bass, the accompaniment is such that both make their presence known, but in complimenting the vocal, it never feels like Ben’s heartfelt melody will be lost.
Pushing home the importance of the lyricism, on reaching the chorus for the first time, a sense of growth in all areas – but particularly vocal ones – occurs. Bringing warm emphasis, the title-centred lyrics are joined by swelling, wordless harmonic vocals. Adding strength to the sound, it helps the main line of ‘Do you hear the rain my love?’ soar and connect further turning it into a stylish musical masterpiece. However, delivering equal strength with the bluesy, guitar-led sound of earlier returning, you realise that the strength is everywhere in the track.
Shifting briefly in sound to give us an instrumental interlude, the accompanying motifs to this point continue while the lyrics are replaced by a blues rock guitar solo. Delivering the same level of emotion as within Ben’s vocal – due to subtle distortion reflecting his raw edged tone – it forms the perfect guitar-centred showcase. Proving just how insanely well he knows the capabilities of his instrument, nothing is left out and everything, like earlier, truly works as one.
With Ben having just given a full display of how to write for guitar, his vocals once again move to the fore and guide us through the final, message-filled verse. Containing lines such as ‘If anybody’s gonna love you, you gotta tell the truth’ and the emphatic, powerfully set statement of ‘So here it is’ there is little doubting the emotional inference. However, in holding the sound back just the right amount, it feels balanced with everything that has been and with the tracks completely absorbing final moments.