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Original Release Date: 03/17/2009
Listen for free on Bandcamp
Review by Zack Daggy
Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)
Label: Kamikaze Dogwood

Benjamin Baker is the storyteller of your life…or so it seems. His songs are laced with passion and emotion. He shapes his lyrics into crystal clear moments of life that you’d swear were your own. With a deep soulful voice and intimate acoustic guitar playing, he delivers an honest raw feel to his music that strikes straight to the heart. His release Nights of Pain isn’t just an album; it’s the diary of your life.

The Voice

As soon as this album begins it is immediately apparent that Benjamin Baker has a very smooth reserved voice. He’s not the type of artist that will belt out a show stopping number on a Vegas stage, but he doesn’t need to. Benjamin Baker is Bob Dylan with sunburn. He’s Counting Crows with soul. He’s Bruce Springsteen’s long lost son that was raised by Simon and Garfunkel. In tracks like “Good Times On The Bad Side” Baker’s voice takes on an up-tempo rhythm that embraces a more country root, but throughout most of the album his voice is more in line with the smooth vibes felt in the opening track “Bourbon Reflection.” Baker’s voice was made for the more soulful side of folk. “After Midnight” is the perfect example of this. It’s the cliché song about a dad going out for “smokes” only to abandon his family, yet Baker’s voice is so raw and full of emotion that the track overcomes the cliché to strike home as true.

The Lyrics

The lyrics of Nights of Pain are ones about moments-moments of heartbreak and love, sadness and joy, loss and faith. Faith in particular plays a strong roll in Bakers lyrics. Perhaps one of his best lines is, “music moves the spirit and Jesus saves the soul” from the song “Way Too Many.” This line is poetry plain and simple. It’s the type of line that stays with you no matter your faith because of its simplistic nature matched with a deep-rooted personal meaning. It’s a line like this that demands that this artist be paid attention to. Of course not all of Baker’s songs have to do with faith. “Good Times On The Bad Side” is a song about hanging out with the good ol’ boys and the title track “Nights of Pain” is about a relationship on the rocks. Theses are songs about American dreams and broken hearts. These are songs about life.

The Music

Much like Baker’s voice, the music of Nights of Pain is very smooth and captivating. In tracks like “Frozen Tears” the addition of a harmonica adds a very strong Bob Dylan bluesy folk vibe, while still maintaining a modern edge similar in sound to Modest Mouse. Other tracks like “Saltwater Symphony” take on a more late 90’s early 00’s style. Despite these two sounds seeming quite different, they actually jell together rather well. It seems like Baker has mixed his peanut butter with his chocolate.

The Verdict

Benjamin Baker’s Night of Pain isn’t really an album; it’s an experience. It’s your life flashing before your eyes. Baker writes songs about the highs and lows that accumulate over a lifetime and presents them with enough passion and emotion that it feels like you lived them all along by his side. This isn’t just an album about music; it’s about songs and everything that can be put in to them.