I expect that most of you have never heard of David Benedict. It’s not your fault! He’s the new guy in town, hailing from the Southeast, and he’s just getting settled. That being said, I’d like to introduce you to him. Since 2009, he has been instrumental in the Celtic folk band, Emerald Road. But in late 2013, he and a crew of talented musicians came together to record his first solo album, Into The True Country, released Mar. 11, 2014. Produced by Grammy-nominated mandolinist, Matt Flinner, this offering is as gentle as it is giant.
I only learned of Benedict about a week before his album was released. He is a mandolin marvel, but that is hardly his strongest suit. What drew me into his music is Benedict’s wonderful melodic sensibilities. While he can, and at times does, blaze through the music as many bluegrass musicians do, much of the album finds him carefully crafting his path. He squeezes the most he can out of each note before proceeding on, hanging on emotion and clarity more than speed. Songs like “Ross’s Landing” and “The Paperclip Reel” possess entrancing motifs that get caught in the air and dance upon the breeze, making them hard to forget, let alone not repeat.
Rounding out this cast of young musicians are Catherine BB Bowness on banjo, Samson Grisman on bass, Ross Martin on guitar and Christian Sedelmyer on 5-string fiddle. Even though this is labeled as a solo album, the music is far from a showcase for any one person. Everyone shines and everyone supports each other. Of course, there are other times, such as during “Rockfall Ridge,” a fast-paced finger-blazer that sees mandolin, fiddle, guitar and banjo each taking turns trying to outdo one another. But before long, they’re careening together for the chorus, doubling phrases in such a way that they seem to melt together.
From start to finish, Into The True Country is filled with songs that can not only impress musicians but also, more importantly, these songs can impress the unsuspecting listener. Each song evokes a feeling of awe, taking me away to some distant memory or drawing up a landscape for my imagination to wander within. As much as I’ve listened to this album, even stepping away and returning with fresh ears, I find myself as captivated now as I was upon first encounter. David Benedict proves that there are still wonderful melodies awaiting to be discovered by those with the mind to seek them. I applaud him for it.