Ben de la Cour Shadow Land - May 15, 2020 (Flour Sack Cape Records)
If you like your folk heroes dark and edgy, you’ll dig Ben de la Cour. Shadow Land, the brand-new album from this 2016 Kerrville Folk Festival award winner is out today. I’ve featured the lead off track, “God’s Only Son” a few times on the Local Brew because I love the driving rhythm of this track and Ben’s gritty vocals and lyrics. When asked if he’d ever robbed a bank before, the protagonist answers, “No not really, but I always figured knowing what you’re doing brings the worst kind of luck.” As you can imagine, this story does not have a happy ending but man what a great song.
I recently asked Ben a few questions about Shadow Land via email, here’s a little bit of that e-convo:
Ana Lee: You co-produced the twelve-track album at The Song Shop in Winnipeg, Manitoba with Scott Nolan. Tell me a little about making the record in Canada and what led to that decision?
Ben: "Everyone comes to make records in Nashville. And for good reason! But for better or worse I don't get that excited about doing what everyone else seems to be doing. Scott is a great artist in his own right, and we bonded over Nick Cave and the fact that we’re both recovering metal heads. I wanted the full Winnipeg experience, so we holed ourselves up in his studio in Winnipeg during the polar vortex and got to work. I flew my brother Alex out so he could play drums on it - we haven't made a record together since we were twenty and playing in doom metal bands. Most magical recording experience of my life, and they have some amazing pickers in Winnipeg. It's like the Tulsa of Canada.”
Ana Lee: I hear both Steve Earle and Black Sabbath in this record? How do you feel about those artists?
Ben: “I'm so happy to hear you say that! Black Sabbath are one of the greatest bands of all time, and I've been trying to figure out a way to meld my love of Doom Metal with lyric-driven narratives and mostly acoustic instrumentation. It's hard because I really have no idea what I'm doing most of the time, musically. But I'm constantly trying to make things FEEL heavy without necessarily sounding heavy. I think "Tupelo" from my last record got close to that.”
Ana Lee: You were on tour in Australia when everything came to a screeching halt. I know the virus has affected so many artists who were working on release plans. Some are pushing back releases and others like yourself are going ahead and giving us new music.
Ben: “Well, the way I see it is, if I put the record out now in the middle of a pandemic and it flops, I can just blame COVID-19. It pays to remember the ABC's; Always Be Looking for someone else to blame.”
It’s good to keep your sense of humor. We also talked about the video he just released for the track, “From Now On”. Ben first sent me the mastered album last November, long before covid-19. That’s the beauty of songs to me; it can be written about one thing and still be totally relevant to something completely different.
Ben: "I shot the video around town when I came back from Australia at the start of the pandemic, because I thought the song felt strangely timely. I wanted the video to reflect that. I also wanted to compare the tornado/covid damage to the damage gentrification has brought down upon our city."
Ana Lee is on middays at WMOT, and is also the host of The Local Brew Hour, which airs Sundays at 7am and Mondays at 7pm on 89.5 WMOT and wmot.org.