Gem of a musician releases album
The highlight of live music in Eureka Springs will definitely be JP Harris at Chelsea's Saturday night.
But with Fayetteville being only an hour away, I would be remiss as your live music writer if I didn't tell you all about an Arkansas gem of a musician who is releasing a new album at a performance Friday night at Fayetteville's George's Majestic Lounge.
Benjamin del Shreve is one of those critically acclaimed, multiple-award-nominated musicians that Arkansas is lucky to call its own. I wrote about his brother, Randall Shreve, last weekend, when Randall's band came to rock Squid and Whale Pub (and rock the house they did).
Together, the duo originally became widely known during their time playing and singing in the Christian rock band GS Megaphone, which was nominated for multiple Dove Awards and American Music Awards before it disbanded and the Shreves struck out on their own. Since then, they've continued to make their individual marks on their respective music scenes.
Now, Benjamin del Shreve emerges from the studio after a three-year hiatus with his third full-length album, "The Diamond," which gets its name from the Natural State's other moniker.
"I guess I named it after Arkansas, because this is the only record I've ever written while actually living somewhere," explained the well-traveled musician.
Having a home, and a much more grounded lifestyle, played into a lot more than just the title of the new album, Benjamin told me this week. It really became the purpose for, and the reason behind, the entire effort.
"We used to tour like 250 nights a year, but that changed and eventually I thought, 'I need to chill out and calm down my lifestyle, get a girlfriend and make a home and all that,'" he said. "So I thought I wanted that to be a part of my life musically as well. So even though we had a full-length rock record ready to go into the studio with, I ended up telling the band I wanted to do something different.
"I didn't want to get boxed in to people thinking I just do rock music. And I wanted to share these new experiences I've had."
The new album is "very chill" compared to the hard-driving rock-and-roll on his first two releases, Benjamin says. But even though most of it is mid- to slow tempo, none of it is melancholy: "It's one of the most positive records you're ever going to hear in your life," he emphasizes.
"This is a kind record," he said. "The two previous releases had a kind of 'Billy Bad Ass' thing going on. This one is good music for a good day, or at least if you're having a bad day it will probably cheer you up some."
This is because he and everyone involved in recording the album -- which included key players Adam Putman (producer and engineer and Insomniac Studios) and musicians Jonathan Holder and Robert Geiger -- were "very cognizant of negative vibes" when they were recording.
"The last record we made was a really unhealthy recording experience for me," Benjamin explained. "This time if we were recording, everyone had to be in a good mood, in a good place. Used to be we were on a schedule and we would have to push through and do some more tracks, but not this time. We took our time and made sure it felt right."
Filled with banjos, mandolins, violins, piano, ukelele, and pretty much every instrument he didn't play on his first two albums, Shreve maintains his salt-of-the-earth ethos that's part rebel and part poet, the latter being a life-long hobby he's finally found time to fully explore.
Some of the highlights include "Mount Sequoyah," the first song he wrote after learning mandolin; "Flower Gathering," his take on the Robert Frost poem; "Southern Rain," a tune inspired by a rainy drive home on a motorcyle; and "The Diamond," a rootsy, foot-stomping number with lyrical imagery based on his travels from Finland to northern California and finally to Honduras before returning home.
The album is not available for purchase anywhere until Friday, but then you can find it on iTunes, Amazon, cdBaby, and the band's website, www.bdsband.com. You can, however, stream it on my music blog right now (www.CarrollCoNews.com/blogs/livemusicinnwa).
Take a listen in particular to two songs: "Smile," which Benjamin says is equal parts poem and prayer -- "It talks about the architect of heaven and how is also is who made your face," he explains. It's a really sweet song, a very zen song." -- and "Mount Sequoyah," named after Fayetteville's tallest peak, and Benjamin's favorite meditation spot, from which one can see for 30 miles.
While this sound is a remarkable difference from his first two albums, Benjamin says he is not worried about his fans or his friends feeling left out or betrayed or any such thing.
"I hope that anyone who liked the first two rock records will like this one, but I am not attached to that outcome," he said. "The fact is I have been doing this kind of music a lot longer and even have some friends that know me more for this kind of music that for rock. It was actually a transition for them to hear me put out a record like (the previous album) 'Brilliant and Charming!'"
Benjamin del Shreve and his six-piece band will perform Friday night at George's after opener Sean James' acoustic solo act, which begins around 9 p.m. Admission is $7 and tickets are available online in advance at www.georgesmajesticlounge.com.
Following is the schedule of live music for Eureka Springs music venues this weekend:
THURSDAY, DEC. 6
* Chelsea's, 10 Mountain St., 479-253-6723: Gina Gallina and Her Little Big Band, 9 p.m.
* Squid and Whale, 37 Spring St., 479-253-7147: Open Mic Musical Smackdown featuring Bloody Buddy and Friends, 7:30 p.m.
FRIDAY, DEC. 7
* Berean Coffee House, 4032 E. Van Buren, 479-244-7495: Live music, 7 p.m.
* Cathouse / Pied Piper, 82 Armstrong St., 479-363-9976: Jazz Tech Ruins, 8 p.m.
* Chaser's, 169 E. Van Buren, 479-253-5522: Dance party with Tiny, 9 p.m.
* Chelsea's: Seth Sherman, 9 p.m.
* Eureka Live!, 35 N. Main St., 479-253-7020: DJ & Dancing 9 p.m. to close
* Jack's Place / Centerstage Live, 37 Spring St., 479-253-2219: Karaoke and DJ Goose, 8 p.m. till midnight
* The Lumberyard, 104 E. Van Buren: DJ & Karaoke, 8 p.m.
* New Delhi Cafe, 2 N. Main St., 479-253-2525: Scott Elliott, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Mike Simba, 6:30 p.m.
* Rowdy Beaver Den, 45 Spring St., 479-363-6444: Skillet Lickers, 7 p.m.
* Rowdy Beaver Tavern, 417 W. Van Buren, 479-253-8544: Rockin' with DJ Mark, 7 p.m.
* Squid & Whale: Taken featuring Daryl Brooks, 8 p.m.
* Voulez-Vous Lounge, 63A Spring St., 479-363-6595: SPiNRaD, 9 p.m.
SATURDAY, DEC. 8
* Cathouse / Pied Piper: Jazz Tech Ruins, 8 p.m.
* Chaser's: Ozark Thunder, 9 p.m.
* Chelsea's: JP Harris, 9 p.m.
* Eureka Live!: DJ & Dancing 9 p.m. to close
* Jack's Place / Centerstage Live: Juke Joint, 9 p.m.
* The Lumberyard: Dirty Boots, 9 p.m.
* New Delhi Cafe: Scott Elliott, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Fear the Beard, 6:30 p.m.
* Rowdy Beaver Den: Skillet Lickers, 7 p.m.
* Rowdy Beaver Tavern: Third Degree, 7 p.m.
* Squid and Whale: Inigo Montoya, 8 p.m.
* Voulez-Vous Lounge: SPiNRaD, 7 p.m.
SUNDAY, DEC. 9
* Chelsea's: Chucky Waggs, 4-8 p.m.
* Eureka Live!: Customer Appreciation Night specials 5 p.m. to close
* New Delhi Cafe: Fear the Beard, 1 to 4 p.m.; Jazz Tech Ruins, 4 to 7 p.m.
* Squid and Whale: "Local Kine" Local Musicians Showcase, 7 p.m.
MONDAY, DEC. 10
* Chelsea's: Springbilly, 9 p.m.