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First Listen: Ben Ballinger

By Kevin Curtin, July 7, 2014, 1:35pm, Earache!

Last night, weary and worn from a weekend of holiday parties and late-night musical excursions, I pried myself off the sofa to catch Ben Ballinger performing at Holy Mountain. Playing solo and still wearing work boots, presumably from his day job as a freelance handyman, the Oregon native had the small crowd hanging on his every introspective line.

Ballinger’s gifts as a lyricist trump his talents as a guitarist and vocalist. All lend to his indie bard allure. His ability to hit profound notions shines on the inquisitive folksong “Confessions in Flannel,” on which he interrogates religious leaders, politicians, and fortune tellers until they admit they’re just “making it up as they go.”

In the tricky final verse, Ballinger brings his own songwriting into question. When a fan accuses him of being a charlatan, the songwriter admits that he’s just making it up as he goes also.

Ballinger’s new 10-song offering, The State I’m In, serves as the inaugural release for Good Horse Records, a vinyl imprint from White Horse co-owner Denis O’Donnell, producer Ivan Evangelista, and engineer Daniel McNeill. The local label takes a classic approach to record production, using an all-analog process and allowing minimal overdubs. The LP arrives digitally July 12 and on vinyl August 15.

On Friday, Ballinger hits Mohawk with fellow Good Horse ambassadors Mrs. Glass and Carson McHone as they kickoff a tour of the upper Midwest.

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