A singer-songwriter chum said he was having trouble writing about himself. I said I loved the sleeve notes from the back of early Stones albums. So here’s what happened when I wrote some words for Ben Salter:
Give a man a guitar, an honest voice and an interesting life and you’ll get great songs.
The greatest singer-songwriters blend fragility and confidence, serious subjects and a light touch. Think about the blend of humour and honesty you get with Billy Bragg, Jonathan Richman, Warren Zevon, Loudon Wainwright III or Graham Coxon.
They’re all people who’ve picked up a guitar, knocked a tune into rough shape and sung about their life. The message is the medium. Straightforward, honest, useful musicians; not clever, virtuoso tricksters. Punk not prog.
Great lyricists, to a man. Think about the couplets in ‘New England’, the exuberance of ‘Roadrunner’. It may be wrong to wish on space hardware, but Ben will, and he’ll care.
Suited East End artists Gilbert and George said ‘We want our art to speak across the barriers of knowledge directly to People about their Life and not about their knowledge of art’; Ben does that with music.
And the result is great lo-fi, scratchy rock ‘n’ roll – less garage band, more kitchen sink singer. Songs about opening milk cartons and most of the milk spilling, commuting, being in a band that never make it. Everyday stuff. The piper at the gates of school.