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Best Of The Batch: Ben Carroll
Lover Undercover
By Susan Frances
(more articles from this author)
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Artist: Ben Carroll
Title: Lover Undercover
Genre: Acoustic Pop
Label: Luckytone Records

Acoustic pop is quickly filling up once again with the likes of Damien Rice, Matt Costa, Ray Lamontagne, Jeremy Enigk, Ben Kweller, and Jack Johnson. The genre has its origins with Paul Simon and James Taylor’s music. But modern acoustic pop is being influenced by much more than just folk and country. Showing up are signs of blues, gospel, soul, and funk.

This contemporary incarnation is being fostered by New York City-based singer-songwriter Ben Carroll, who grew up listening to radio’s steady steed of pop/rock artists like Taylor Dayne and Prince. Later he would be intrigued by the darker depths of Leonard Cohen. He has taken influences from commercial to obscure artists and molded them into his make of acoustic pop.

Carroll formed his own songs by stripping away the flamboyant production work made prolific by the ‘80s icons and probed to the core of the melodies, finding a bluesy tonality in the vocal registers and a harmony between the vocals and the rhythmic movements.

His debut album, Lover Undercover, is a graceful, flowing medley of acoustic pop songs impacted by froths of blues, gospel, soul, and funk. The vocal lines and the acoustic guitar spreads walk hand in hand as the folk twists in the melodies provide a countrified setting, creating a serene ambience like on the track “A Simple Kind.” The lightly pulsed grooves of “Three In One” is sweetly persuasive, making the tune instantly likeable. The flexibility of the vocals creates a warm vibe coursing through the strummed chords.

Carroll’s forte may be his loving ballads like “Dola Rosa,” which has a Spanish flare in the vocal melody and the bluesy pop essence of the title track, enriched with emotion. The acoustic pop/rock melody “Fire & Ice” showcases Carroll’s expressive vocal clasps suctioned to the roving melodic progressions.

There is a natural warmth and suppleness in his vocals that shape the tempos and depth of the melodies, forming graceful swags like in the tune “If I Wasn’t Sleeping” and the softly squeezed “Luv U So.” His voice is prayer-like, holding reverence for every word like in the final track “Angel’s Arms.”

Ben Carroll’s debut release has a natural vibrancy that does not rely on flamboyant production work, but rather on sparse, crystalline tones emoted by feeling the melody and the words. The album was written, performed and produced by Ben Carroll with his friend, Gabriel Judet-Weinshel, recording him in Weinshel’s home studio. The album shows that beauty comes from inside, so why camouflage it?

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