Here's a small little question for you: who the hell is Benjamin Durdle?
In short, Benjamin Durdle is a songwriter, but no one's ever heard of him. Quite frankly, I got the feeling that Ben would prefer to keep it that way. An aspiring architect born-and-bred in in Illinois, Durdle has been pursuing songwriting as a bit of a hobby, but not much else. He'd record singles here and there, sometimes even an EP, and he'd simply share these songs amidst close friends but nothing beyond that. He's played at small venues around Chicago, but Ben never intended this to be his career. In fact, he still doesn't.
So why, pray tell, does he have his own tribute album, much less one that's available completely for free? In short, the reason why I put together a tribute album is because of what Ben's influence has been on my own life. I met him in late 2003, and it's because of him that I discovered a love of recording and producing, a passion that has opened up more doors and opportunities for me than I would've ever thought possible. Although Ben and I would frequently exchanged the small little songs that we wrote back and forth over the years, I got a little disturbed when I began to realize he was turning into a real songwriter. An incredible one, even. Usually just with his voice and his acoustic guitar, Ben would write intensely personal tales of love loss, bitterness, and woe. The more I listened, the more I was genuinely impressed by what he was doing, and soon I began to wonder: why isn't he doing this for a living.
Always one to shy away from self-promotion, I decided to do something about it, and put together what is now known as Good With Words: A Tribute to Benjamin Durdle. We all have those people in our lives that influence and impact us, and sometimes they never rise much above their surroundings, despite their brilliance. For one, I never properly thanked Ben for what he had done for me, but this was the best possible way I could think of to thank him. Slowly but surely, I began asking artists to contribute, and the more I asked, the more incredible responses I got (and one very nice rejection notice from Nick Cave's management). Before long, we had an album, and now, it is available for anyone and everyone to download for free.
So who stepped up to the plate to contribute? A wide variety of breaking artists, ranging from established stars to groups making their debuts right here. Acclaimed folk artist Will Stratton lends his own folky style to the yearning tale "Don't Paint Me Up", while the retro electro-funk stylings of The Marches wind up turning "Big City" into a female choir-backed, soul-haunting kind of ballad. Seattle's psychedelic rockers The Hoot Hoots turn opening track "Beyond the Pale" into a peppy, joyous rock spectacle, complete with horn sections and shout-along vocals. Upstart NYC electro group Motorcycles Are Everywhere, meanwhile -- fresh off of beating out the latest Weezer album in the 2009 Pazz & Jop poll -- mix shimmering keyboards with tribal drumming to make "My Lovely Ghosts" a tortured digital epic. Fellow Brooklynite David Abravanel turns Ben's one-off experiment "Fists" into a soul-shattering epic that would make Trent Reznor proud, just as how Le Guillotine -- a band composing of members of the Utah-based rock outfit's The Fully Blown and Blackhole -- turn "(sugar) cain and abel" into a thundering solo-laced epic that would fit right at home on Guitar Hero. Toss in the debut recordings of folk singer Lisa Choi, indie-pop duo Cami + Dave, and the eccentric soul-crunk I Saved Holland -- along with a track by Durdle himself -- and you got a musical force to be reckoned with.
Of course, what was Ben's reaction, finding out that a series of artists had covered his songs without his knowledge? One of humility, one of joy, and one of amazement. Those are the feelings that I too felt as each track came rolling in, and the only thing that thrills me more is being able to share these songs with the world now. Thank you.
released January 4, 2010
Created & produced by Evan Sawdey
Album design and concept art by Murilo Ferreira