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Ben Bostick

Among the Faceless Crowd – 2020 ( Self-released)

Reviewed by Jim Hynes

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CDs by Ben Bostick

This is the antidote to Ben Bostick's raging 2018's "Hellfire," which had such unrelenting energy that it made frequent listening challenging. This is the more listenable, pensive side of many of those same characters, its "sad cousin," Bostick calls it. This is the calm after a few wild nights, maybe the hangover, and the loneliness that sets in for the desperate working class represented in the title by the 'faceless crowd.' That starkness is reflected in Bostick's mostly DIY effort, playing all instruments himself until he realized some limitations that led him to enlist a couple of trusted allies for a few tunes.

It didn't necessarily begin as a concept album, but the songs hang together cohesively. It's forlorn and bleak as it opens with "Absolutely Emily," "Wasting Gas," the direct outcries of "Working for a Living" and the organ heavy "I Just Can't Seem to Get Ahead." In fact, the album is divided with the first from the perspective of disillusioned working men. It's brought to a rousing conclusion with the fleshed-out sound of organ and Kyle LaLone's guitar solo on the anthemic "The Last Coast," a standout track.

"The Thief" introduces us to five songs of unsavory characters and criminals. In the song, a man steals to support his family ("I do what I gotta do"). "Central Valley" has a man going to jail for a botched robbery. Bostick, a former resident of Los Angeles, says that the lifestyle and the politics of the city disappear when going to the Central Valley, which might be one our poorest states if it were one. He met some desperate characters there, including the one who inspired the song.

The bluesy "Too Dark to Tell" is the epitome of pessimism - "I once was found, but now again I'm lost/On the merciless waves I am tossed/I would tell you of His grace, and how it was I fell/But some tales are just too dark to tell." It gets bleaker. The narrator of "Untroubled Mind" is on death row. The melancholy tone of "If I Were a Novel" with its mention of 'faceless crowd' makes a fitting close.

Bostick proves again to be a courageous songwriter writing without pretension about what he's observed and what he feels. No pontification or glorification is necessary. In one sense, it's fictitious by being painfully real at the same time.