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CD REVIEW: Benj-O-Matic - New Tales from a Broken Record
By Jon Stewart - 05/24/2006 - 05:34 PM EDT

Artist: Benj
Album: O-Matic - New Tales from a Broken Record
CD Review: An immediate comparison you could make on this 10 track album would be to the Black Crowes’ vocalist Chris Robinson and that band’s style of Southern Rock. But Benjy Johnson, lead vocalist, guitarist and songwriter for this three man group, has the uncommon sense to broaden the sound of the South. A few of the compositions are punk in origin, one is Beatlesque and then there is the blues-soaked “The Kisses”. Originally produced in January 2005, the CD has Jeff Carmichael on bass and Scotty Irving on drums but it is Benjy who is the real talent behind this creative effort.

On the band’s MySpace website, under CD credits, Mr. Johnson details each song’s inspiration and development. I wish more artists would follow his example. I became obsessed with the juxtaposition of each song played against this background.

The always persistent technical problem with the limitation of three band members is the inability to play rhythm and lead together in a live venue and I don’t know how this is addressed when Benj-O-Matic tours. On the CD, this is easily solved by laying as many tracks as necessary. And there are plenty of riffs to go around. The first track on the CD, “Devil in the Vinyl”, has that distinctive Southern Rock element, a stepping-down chord progression, filled out with a fuzzbox, which creates the musical tension. Add a strong lead and you’re already halfway there before you’ve sung a word. “Brains by the Bucketful” has a Joe Walsh slap-guitar feel that augments the lyrics about an oh-so-clueless, self absorbed young woman.

“Wine” has my favorite guitar sound for the CD with a strong lead that gives a huge Southern feel to the whole song. “Five Dollars”, is a slow song with rich detail that has some of the best lyrics on the CD and a cool hook that still gets in my head. “Fade” has excellent guitar work throughout but it has some clichés that work but are still noticeable. “Superhuman” sounds like it came off the Beatles White album and is a fanciful look at superheroes. “The Kisses” is a tribute to the original bluesmen, right down to a wailing harmonica. Benjy does his voice through a Shure “green bullet” harp mic into a guitar amp and the lead is so real it feels like he’s playing it in the room with you.

If you want one of the best Southern Rock albums around, buy this CD. I hope Benjy is working on the next album right now.
Grade B+.

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