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The Martha's Vineyard Times

The Martha's Vineyard Times is a weekly publication.
October 6, 2005 - October 12, 2005 Edition
Web Comments - Email Submissions

CD Review: Shades of blue

October 6, 2005

Mike Benjamin.

File photo by Ralph Stewart

By Julian Wise

Mike Benjamin's "Backyard" CD is a fitting calling card for his talents with its smooth, easy sound and its blend of Americana rock and soul. For fans of his songs, this disc will be a pleasant treat.

The disc opens with "$13 Check," a driving blues shuffle that blends the Delta and honky-tonk tones as its narrator gives a whimsical cry of poverty. Sample lyric: "I did some work last week, it was all on spec, all I got to show for it is this $13 check." "Backyard" features a Staxx-era guitar sound as Mr. Benjamin coaxes sweet sounds from the high end of the fret board. Mr. Benjamin's smooth vocals blend seamlessly with the horns throughout the upbeat song. "Smile" features Mr. Fuller musing "You can't hit the ground running, everyone's got to learn to crawl," in this ear-friendly track with an amiable groove. "Travelin' Alone," "Misery's Got Company" and "Learn To Cry" are soulful ballads that highlight Mr. Benjamin's radio-ready voice, while the band funks things up on "Engine." Mr. Benjamin recruited a score of Island musicians (Judd Fuller, Robbie Soltz, Tom Majors, Joanna Cassidy, Dana Radford, and others), and the band generates heat with their impressive musicianship.

Mr. Benjamin remains a premier talent on the Island, with a musical resume that includes writing and singing professional jingles in New York City, a stint in Entrain, and recording sessions with Mark Cohn, Delbert McClinton, Patty Labell, Will Lee, Vicky Sue Robinson, and Paul Shaffer. He has performed with Bo Diddly, James Taylor, The Dave Letterman Band, The Blues Brothers, Carly Simon, Sue Tedeschi and many others. With "Backyard," Mr. Benjamin proves that his vocal and songwriting talents will be visible on the Vineyard scene for years to come.

Musical notes

On Sept. 30, Kahoots will host a Release Party at Offshore Ale to celebrate the completion of their 7" vinyl EP on I and Ear Records. The release features two new compositions, "The Coroner Blinks Twice" and "Off the Page." Two older singles, "Toilet Temple" and "Empty Boxes," will round out the EP. This is their first release on I and Ear Records, which will provide national distribution for the Island band. The band will release a full-length album on the label in late winter or early spring of 2006.

On Oct. 2, Offshore Ale will host a benefit to help launch a low-frequency, community-based independent radio station. Planners Bill Morancy and Maria Danielson have secured an FCC license and hope to be on the air in April 2006. The benefit will help raise funds to purchase a mixing board, turntables, transmitter, Emergency Alert System decoder, and other vital equipment. The lineup includes Willy Mason, Eric Lichter, The Mercy Beat, and Irish Music by Mary Wolverton and Her Band. The organizers request a minimum donation of $10 at the door. There will be volunteer sign-up sheets and information about the station at the show. The organizers meet weekly on Sundays at 4 pm at the Howes House in West Tisbury; interested volunteers are welcome to stop by. To find out more about the new station, call 508-696-6271, or e-mail

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©The Martha's Vineyard Times 2005 -