The neo-Soul revival, which includes artists such as Leon Bridges, Gary Clark Jr., Jacob Banks, and more, touched down in Lawrence, KS last night when Benjamin Booker played his guitar at the Bottleneck.
Booker, a young and quickly ascending musician from Virginia Beach, VA played to a semi-packed, dimly lit room and astonished everyone in it with his soulful, dusty voice and unbelievably skilled guitar playing. Together with his tight-knit four piece band, Booker ramshackled through an hour long set.
The vibe Booker puts out is a young soul artist way beyond his years. His voice sounds airy and gravelly, with an inflection of hurt within the words. As any good soul singer will testify to, the backbone of soul is this deep, confounding hurt. The kind of pain that drives you to strum that guitar in such a way that everyone listening can tell, damn this guy’s been through it.
But Booker’s style isn’t just soul, his sound incorporates a lot of rock and roll as well as the blues. On songs like “Wicked Waters” he rocks out to a fast-paced, riff-driven melody. On tracks like “Witness,” he incorporates the blues into a smooth, gospel-y sound that sounds warm and vintage.
“Have You Seen My Son” is a wild rocking song that stays tight in the pocket before unleashing into a hair-raising chorus. It’s a fiery song that could easily find a home on a work out playlist and sounds superb in a life setting.
Booker’s ability to sound both new and old is what makes him so appealing. His voice and his music sounds like a throwback, but it’s still new enough to be cutting edge and fresh.
His voice is able to capture a mood, a feeling that is truly unique. For someone so young to be able to have such a diverse sound is incredibly impressive. Benjamin Booker is at the beginning of a very long and successful career, and his first impression last night at the Bottleneck is an indication of that.