NEW ALBUM AVAILABLE OCTOBER 7th!!!
As the 2010s come to a close, Americana is blessed with an abundance of singular voices. Chris Stapleton brought the sound into the mainstream, Sturgill Simpson is a rough-hewn road warrior, Jason Isbell is its poet laureate and Tyler Childers broadens the mind. To this list, add Ben Brooks, an Alabama singer/songwriter who cuts a distinctive figure on his debut album Jean On Jean.
Ben Brooks may share the same language as his alt-country peers, but he speaks in his own idiosyncratic fashion. Lean and lyrical, Brooks doesn't mess around with extraneous details but he's not a minimalist. Grounded in plain-spoken truths, his worldview is nevertheless expansive. As he sings on one of his burnished ballads, he has a "Wandering Heart." Though he may feel the pull of a "Happy Home," he still needs to roam, and that wanderlust not only gives his music soul, it makes it universal.
Jean On Jean may be Brooks's first album but he's been kicking around awhile, playing in bands since he was attending high school in his hometown of Selma, Alabama. His love for music began even earlier, as he absorbed the classic rock his dad played constantly in his pickup truck. Hooked on the sounds of the Allmans, Zeppelin and Tom Petty, Ben got his first guitar when he was 12. He began making noise not much later, playing in a series of bands through his teens, a racket that was temporarily silenced on New Years Day 2003, when he was diagnosed with leukemia.
Brooks beat back the disease, wrapping up chemotherapy in 2005, then finished off his time at Auburn University three years later. Despite his degree, Brooks couldn't resist the call of music, so he headed to Birmingham for a spell, then decided to move to Nashville to take his chances in the Music City.
When they arrive in Nashville, most songwriters wind up bending their wills to fit the needs of the music industry, but not Brooks. What's striking about Jean On Jean is how its songs are imprinted with a distinct personality even when the sounds are familiar. Brooks has a reassuring, weathered voice that lends gravity to his finely etched songs. Just like his tunes, his singing is rich with emotion: these are songs that are lived, not performed.
-Written by Stephen Thomas Erlewine