On his fourth album Life and Life Only, James Bennett takes you on a forty-seven minute rural getaway to a cute little farmhouse, with a fireplace warming you from the white mist hovering over acres of lawn that you’re looking out at while you wash the dishes from the delicious home cooked meal you just enjoyed (James cooked the meal for you too by the way). Despite that description sounding like an obscure crossover between Escape to the Country, The Farmer Wants a Wife and Huey’s Kitchen, it’s a crossover you have to experience.
Paced like a limerick and sung like a tone-perfect cowboy, Bennett opens the album with “Beg Lie Steal Borrow”. A hypothetical pondering of a world where he’s lost everything. It’s a lively tonesetter for the album that will guide you through the life and experiences of the novocastrian songwriter.
“Broken Wicker Chair” is perfect for when you’re rugged up on a chilly day with a warm beverage, with bonus points awarded if you’re sitting in front of a fire. But in the unlikely scenario that you’re not in that setting as you’re reading this, don’t fret because the warmth of Bennett’s resonant vocals will compensate for your lack of comfort and fire. The lyrics are written beautifully to the point where they’re almost bewitching as he describes a Grandfather Clock that was thrown away, “And the time was stuck at 12/ Pointing straight up at the books on the shelf/ That I didn’t read ’cause they belonged to someone else.”
“Before I Fall” offers a bit of a different sound from Bennett, experimenting with electric guitar and heavier tones with a seamless transition into dainty piano and flute. He then jumps back into his trademark flavour of gorgeous folk on “Perfect Disguise” – a rejection of a lifestyle fuelled by materialism.
The third single from the album, “So Have My Smiles” is perfect for reading a book with your morning coffee. And yes I know this review has a lot of scene setting but when you listen to the record you’ll know why – it’s picturesque songwriting. Bennett manages something that very few can, creating a mellow atmosphere while still sounding passionate and delivering vocals that will stay with you hours after the needle hits the inner circles of the record. The folk singer-songwriter catches you by surprise, the final minute of the track distorts and becomes reminiscent of something you might expect from Canberran alt-punk legends TV Colours.
The Newcastle local ties off Life and Life Only with the longest track of the album, “Velvet River”. He landscapes soulful harmonica with the natural sounds of flowing water and birdsongs, where you can imagine Bennett, sitting on a rock next to the stream with a broad brimmed hat and pen in hand, writing the poetic stanzas that have become the verses of this track.
Life and Life Only is out now on whichever streaming platform takes your fancy, or follow this link to get your hands on a physical copy https://jamesbennettmusic.com/store