Benjamin Adair Murphy is a blues singer-songwriter based in Mexico City. His musical style encompasses many genres and his songwriting is blunt as can be, and on his latest album “Let’s Make A King”, Benjamin faces the current state of the world head on with a gritty bluesy compilation of songs.
The album starts out with the song “Your Gun”. Benjamin gets straight down to business, there’s no need for vague symbolisms or sugar to make the medicine go down. As the drums march on together with the guitar, Benjamin’s lyrics cut through like a knife.
“Your gun cost me my father
Your gun cost me my wife
Your gun cost me my brother
Your gun cost me my life
Your gun cost me my uncle
Your gun cost me my niece
Your gun cost me my nephew
Your gun cost me my peace
Your gun cost me my daughter
Your gun cost me my son
Your gun took everything from me
But you’ve still got your gun”
“Your Gun” is obviously a response to the rampant gun violence that seems to be spreading like a wildfire in the US. The song continues in the same vein, and the message gets stronger line by line. It’s a reminder of the many innocent lives lost, be it at the hands of irresponsible gun owners, police or extremists targeting religious institutions.
The instrumentation of the next song, “Stupid Followed Evil”, is quite different compared to the intro track “Your Gun”. It’s got some very jazzy undertones and a much fuller sound. The lyrics on “Stupid Followed Evil” are a great representation of oppression and totalitarianism, and how it’s fed by the ignorance of the masses. In other words, turning a blind eye to evil doesn’t make evil go away.
“Well Evil saw that Stupid was truly stupid and he had time
To tear the world apart and split the people into tribes
He said that war can have a winner
And that greed is not a sin
And a man can judge another man by the color if his skin
And all the while stupid sat while the world burned to the ground
Thinking gee it sure is nice to have a friend around”
It’s an incredibly appropriate message, because only when we pull our heads out of the sand, and stare evil in the face do we realise what we’re up against. We’d all love to believe we’ve come a long way, that the injustices of the past are truly in the past. But as black people are murdered at the hands of police, indigenous people lose their lands to corporate greed and Western imperialism still wreaks havoc on the earth, it’s an important message – ignorance isn’t bliss.
Two great songs, so far so good. I’m already hooked on the album, especially the songwriting. Even though I’m personally a lover of poetry and symbolistic writing, I can’t help but find the straightforward nature of Benjamin’s lyrics compelling. He injects a bit of humour here and there, and he’ll use analogies, but at the core they’re still deeply serious.
“Alabama Goddam” is the third song on the album, and it’s blues’n’roll from start to finish. Benjamin has a talent for making catchy rhythms, it’s hard not to tap your foot to the beat.
“She’s driving out of Alabama
She’s fed up and she’s through
She’s driving out of Alabama
Cause she don’t live in 1952
They want to turn the clock as far as they can
I am not quite sure what to say about the song lyrically. As much as I try to follow US politics, I don’t want to talk out of my arse. I suppose it may have something to do with the political regression in Alabama, especially regarding women’s rights. Nonetheless it’s a great tune that I thoroughly enjoyed.
The title of the next song, “One Hundred Pills Per Person”, made me think of the alt-country legend Robbie Fulks’ “She Took A Lot of Pills and Died”. I suppose in some ways Benjamin Adair Murphy is to blues what Robbie Fulks is to country. Benjamin’s “One Hundred Pills Per Person” is a far more chilling song, though.
“100 pills per person
Prescribed to me and you
By Johnston and Johnson
And proscribed by Purdue
And if they could do it all again
You know they’d do it just the same
100 pills per person
And big pharma getting paid”
The song depicts the lack of justice for the many victims of opiod addictions that Johnson & Johnson has been fueling. It’s a direct kick in the face to the big pharmaceutical companies that have been a part of creating the opioid epidemic sweeping across the US.
These are just a few examples of the lyrical universe of “Let’s Make a King”. Benjamin has mastered the ability to make music that’ll leave you bopping along while questioning everything about the world we live in. Instrumentally the album is solid, I can’t put my finger on anything. It’s gritty blues with an anarchic punk attitude, and I dig it. You don’t have to be big on blues music to appreciate the craftmanship that has gone into “Let’s Make A King”. You could approach this album purely for the music, but I think it’s hard to disregard the urgent messages conveyed through the lyrics.
Out of the 12 songs on the album, only one of them makes it past the three minute mark, but the songs compliment each other perfectly in tone and style, so it doesn’t interrupt the listener’s experience. Songs like “Back Pocket Blues” and “How Are We Doing On Time?” stand out the most from the rest instrumentally and lyrically. They’re atmospheric and poetical, not delivered with the same bluntness, creating a welcome contrast. “Back Pocket Blues” is more of an alt-folk track, and it’s especially memorable with its soothing brass sections and delicate guitar playing.
To sum this feature up, all I can say is that “Let’s Make a King” might be one of the most compelling albums of 2020. Benjamin’s songwriting, characterised by his brutal honesty, leaves nothing unsaid and when combined with superb musicianship, you get something truly special.
Click here to buy “Let’s Make A King”