Ben de la Cour – Under a Wasted Moon
Under a Wasted Moon is a beautifully bleak and stark album with lyrically rich songs that spin tales of a hanging, love and leaving. Ben de la Cour, a twenty-something folk singer, echoes the aged and wisened music of Townes Van Zandt, Leonard Cohen, and Nick Cave.
De la Cour grew up in Brooklyn and has lived in London, Cuba and Paris. A former amateur boxer and self-taught guitarist, de la Cour fronted the London-based doom-metal band Dead Man’s Roots with whom he released two critically acclaimed albums. Over time, he gave up the metal but kept the doom for a raw, bare bones acoustic folk and in 2009 he settled in New Orleans.
The poetically forlorn “Down in Babylon” leads the album with de la Cour gently singing of a leaving lover. “Sobriety and the Woman” is a sparse and soft lament imbued with Leonard Cohen. My favorite, “The Ballad of John Runner,” de la Cour leans heavily on a Townes Van Zandt style of phrasing and storytelling. A song about one of the first authorized hangings in the land that is now called Alberta, Canada. However, de la Cour does take artistic liberties but beautifully recreates the story of how a Cree guide Ka-Ki-Si-Kutchin (also called The Swift Runner) was convicted of killing and cannibalizing his family in the winter of 1878. And, although “The River” is lyrically awkward, there is a sincerity in de la Cour’s naturally low voice that turns this song into melancholic loveliness. But, even with the instrumentally lean and trudging banjo-based track, “Rabbit Starvation,” Under a Wasted Moon deserves to be heard. A good debut full of dark, interesting, and captivating songs demonstrating that de la Cour has the substance of a great folk singer.
— April Wolfe @ Common Folk Music