By Paul McAleer
When Benjamin Booker released his first album in 2014 to life-altering success, he wrote about how his personal lyrics should be left to him at live shows. He felt that his shows are about having fun and forgetting troubles; “Who cares what I’m saying,” he wrote on Facebook. His debut full-length is comparable to the raw and explosive nature of The White Stripes, mixed with the soulfulness of blues greats such as Jimmy Reed. In a world of synths and claustrophobia, the purity of the guitar-driven instrumentation is refreshing, especially when coupled with dynamic song structures designed to build atmosphere. He was right about his lyrics back then.
With Witness, Booker’s lyrics are at the forefront of the album. The record is about being a witness, making a statement on certain aspects of apathy, racism, and self-worth. We are all witnesses in some shape or form, but this record calls for change, a beacon of light for both artist and listener. Songs like the title track and “Motivation,” deal with dark themes lyrically, yet Booker finds a way to inspire with his honest delivery and mastery over song structure. Musically, it’s as excellent as his debut, but sounds cleaner due to the addition of orchestral elements, crisp production and the desire for his message to get across. When the music is this good, it makes the short length of Witness slightly disappointing, but it’s the perfect sophomore release for an artist that may be on his way to sit with the legends.ATO Records, Benjamin Booker, Witness