Heaping helping of high-profile local LPs
Reviewed by Jim Caligiuri, Fri., Oct. 31, 2014
He's not talking about the state of Texas. You see Ben Ballinger needs help. Sonically, the young balladeer's fifth collection of songs doesn't stray far from his previous work, only now he finds himself desperate and alone. While striving for the same soulful Americana touched on by Ray LaMontagne and Ryan Adams, the Oregon transplant draws too heavily on his emotional state heading south with unfortunate and oppressive results. One high point, the arresting rant "Ashes to Ashes," finds Ballinger the preacher doing his best Nick Cave while a pedal steel whines and horn section adds exclamation points. Elsewhere, "Cellphone" just seems silly: "I wish I was a cell phone to be held and caressed/ Given so much attention. I'd be in heaven to be held in your hand." Among Austin's better young songsmiths, Ben Ballinger's need for a mentor has never been more apparent.