Ben Davis Jr. Is a singer-songwriter from southern Ohio who has played guitar since age 14. In that time, he has honed his craft to the point that he stands among some greats when it comes to creating vivid imagery in a song. His latest is a five-song EP entitled Roots. On it, he blends folk, bluegrass, and rock while singing lyrics that make the songs come to life like photos in a Harry Potter novel.
The EP begins with “Lies,” which has a clear bluegrass influence that comes through not only in the mandolin and the strumming of the acoustic guitar but also in the vocal harmonies. The lyrics are self-deprecating but sincere. In it, he sings, “Please don’t tell me that you’re lucky, that I’m everything you hoped I would be. I’m gone half the time, and the other half you’re crying. Girl, quit your lyin’ to me.” It gives you a good snapshot into the relationship of the narrator.
Davis has a talent for creating songs that are a slice of life. He shares that in common with other midwestern singer-songwriters like John Hiatt. “Roots” is a great example. It really feels like he is showing off his hometown as he points out the chapel where his folks were married and the hill where his grandfather is buried. He also reminisces about a wreck on his bike that left him with a scar on his lip. It is a real and relatable song for anyone who has ever shown someone around the town where they grew up.
“Between Shut Off and Paid Up” is another relatable song for everyone who has ever struggled to make ends meet. As he picks an acoustic guitar in a Bob Dylan sort of style, he sings about some of the struggles like cutting the mold off of a stale loaf of bread and siphoning the gas out of a lawnmower. Toward the end of the song, he delivers the line that is the true meaning of the song that money doesn’t equal happiness with the line, “I’ve known a lot of cats with a fat stack on their side that will never know the joy this life can be.”
The EP is only five songs and 14 minutes, but it gives you enough of a sample to know that Davis is a talented songwriter and storyteller. It also gives you enough of a sample to want to hear more of his songs. The good ones always make it easy, and he certainly does that with pleasant melodies and lyrics that are as vivid as any photo. Roots is available everywhere now.
Check out his earlier album review here: REVIEW: Ben Davis Jr’s “Suthernahia” Tills the Soil of Perennial Longing