Being a sought-after sideman has its advantages. One of them is that when you make your own album you can get favors to fill the band. Ben Balmer wins gold on his latest record, Honky-Tonk Macbeth. The instrumental additions to Balmer's solid singer-songwriter compositions fill the room with layers of sound that can tease new things out of every listening.
The opener Evil Eyes sets this tone with a little swing, a little blues and maybe a touch of Cajun country lust as “her hips swayed to the beat of my heart”. Purple With Pockets is a jazzy, upbeat love story with rock guitar accents. Flower is a pretty little folk waltz with a lively lyrical performance that is accentuated with feminine harmonies. WereBear Stare is a power pop number with an outstanding solo interplay between Cat Clemons on guitar and Eddie Dickerson on violin. The pair also duel at Road Goes Backwards.
The title track goes a little in the opposite direction with a heavy, somber interpretive round-up of the Shakespeare masterpiece, where it begins with "just words that sound pretty, then mostly there is death". A contemporary murder ballad, The Runner begins with a lighthearted country beat before evolving into a larger-than-life Southern rock guitar solo finish. A big graduation can also be seen in Married To the Road, an LA country rock version that takes on a passion for a musician's career.
Ben Balmer has added a whole series of instrumental highlights to almost every song on the album and added sonic flourishes that are downright addicting. Honky-Tonk Macbeth is one of those records that rewards multiple listening as you find new things to appreciate every time.
About the author: I actually drove from Tehatchapee to Tonopah. And I saw Dallas from a DC-9 at night.