Benjy Ferree Leaving the Nest

This album may have never existed in its present form without a little help from a fairy godmother. That godmother in this case was Brendan Canty of Fugazi, who befriended Benjy Ferree in Washington DC, encouraged him to record music and would end up mixing this, Ferree’s debut for Domino. Leaving the Nest finds Ferree in introspective mode, strapping on his acoustic guitar and playing songs that owe as much to the British invasion as they do to American roots and folk. There’s a charming simplicity to the album, which, helped by tuneful hooks, goes down very easily. "Why Bother,” for one, has a winning chorus that is instantly buoyed by a humble harmony not unlike something Ray Davies would have penned. With such straightforward — and at times, uniform — music, the emphasis unavoidably shifts to the lyrics, which are cryptic and read like a narrative of a film set in the Midwest. But it’s hard to shake a feeling of being not quite satisfied — the lyrics, while adequate and interesting at times, don’t seem to have that attention-capturing quality that so many great singer-songwriters seem to be able to tap into. In fact, Ferree is most engaging on a cover, his rendition of Johnny Cash’s "Little at a Time,” where he nails the worn-out delivery of a resigned man ready to give up. It feels like he’s still searching for a voice, or at least trying to refine what he has. Still, it would appear that he has started off on the right foot, and the chances seem good that he will improve on subsequent efforts. (Domino)