CHANGING HORSES: Riding high with Ben Kweller
Slightly high and lonesome, Changing Horses may not change your life, but it will certainly add to it, and heighten your regular music fix. Before we delve into the music, please take note: prior to spotting the disc in a local record store, I had never heard of Ben Kweller. It was the artwork that sold it, which I recognized to be that of Madame Talbot, the inspired Gothic Americana artist from the great Northwest. I figured that anything she would be a part of would be worth getting a hold of, and I was right. No regrets buying this record sight unheard.
Talk about no depression in heaven, there is also none on earth once you hit play and the music starts. All the right ingredients are there: steel guitar, crisp acoustic picking, gospel flavored piano, sweet harmony vocals…everything y’all would want in a damn good record.
The fun begins with Gypsy Rose, opening with dobro and shifting to a waltz. All in all, it is slightly reminiscent of Dylan’s Free-wheelin’ era, though more of an introspective journey than Bob’s socio-political fare of that time.
Fight is a country-gospel number that deals with a trio of characters: a truck driver, an intern of some sort, and the song’s narrator. It speaks of life’s ups and downs in terms like the monotony of making a living on the road, heartbreak and love lost, and the daily traumas that any one can go through, distilling it all symbolically as a game of poker. With its chorus of “…you gotta fight, fight, fight, fight all the way…you gotta set your sight on the Lord in your life…you gotta fight all the way..” it is a real up-swingin’ tune that will get your feet tapping.
Sawdust Man reminds my ten year old daughter of Lennon’s Crippled Inside, and I cannot argue with that. Musically it is certainly the offspring of the southern United States, much like the aforementioned song, with dobro and piano but again, unlike John’s song this is more personal poetry lyric-wise than an address on the state of the Union.
The record closes with Homeward Bound, a sad lament along the lines of Desperado, which in any other era would become an iconic ballad like that of the Eagles.
From Dylan to Lennon to Beck, Changing Horses is the next logical progression in confessional song writing rather than merely a pleasant rehash of good music.
–Brent Lee Bowman