Thursday, 6 June 2013

Review: Sully and the Benevolent Folk – The Odd Sea

Sully and the Benevolent Folk – The Odd Sea (Independent)
New Yorkers, Sully and The Benevolent Folk describe themselves as a band of misfit musicians, bound neither by genre, taste, nor style. I like that! Indeed, I like a band willing to stretch themselves and take a chance or five, and that’s just what they do here on “The Odd Sea” as a number of different genres and styles are weaved - seemingly effortlessly – into the fundamental Benevolent sound. Led by Chris 'Sully' Sullivan on vocals, ukulele and guitar, his distinctive voice and songs provide solid cornerstones for his band to build from and do much to give the record an audible coherency.

The group’s origins only go back a couple of years when Sullivan bought himself a ukulele and to learn its intricacies, he set himself the target of writing 30 songs on the instrument in 30 days. It soon became known, by Sullivan anyway, as ‘The Ukulele Odyssey”, and the songs he wrote, or variations on them, provide the backbone of “The Odd Sea”. The core group of six players, who already brought a full range of instruments to the album, including some unusual pieces (mandocello, saw, etc.) were further aided and abetted by a trumpeter, violinist and clarinet player and over the project’s gestation, a total of 25 musicians have been involved.

Folk, jazz, old country and blues all appear, and amongst the album’s 15 tracks (including four demos from the “Odyssey” days) there are some absolute gems to be found. First of all “The Dreamer” arrives on keys and strings, and Sullivan sings like a cross between Jackie Leven and a Buckley (you choose). “Wandering / Wondering” shimmies on a boisterous bassline courtesy of Corey Kaiser, and with the combined vocals, the effect is jazzy and boho cool. The blues appear on “Looking For Love”, though nothing on “The Odd Sea” is quite as straightforward as that, and on “She Does Rise” Rachel Sullivan joins her husband on gospel backing vocals, and it’s a genuinely moving piece.
Phil S.

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