The latest album and first live release of young singer/songwriter Garrin Benfield is simply titled August Live 03. This time Garrin is backed by a band made up of bassist Joshua Zucker and drummer Russ Gold. Benfield was raised in Westchester, NY but now makes his home in San Francisco, CA. The youngest of nine kids, his first major musical influence was hearing the Beatles' second album as well as Bob Dylan and Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young.
Upon first listen I was impressed with the virtuosity of Benfield's guitar, as well as his honest and clear voice. He reminds me of David Gray on vocals and John Mayer on guitar. What sets him apart from most pop singer/songwriters is his lead guitar playing, on both acoustic and electric, which is very strong. I would classify his music as guitar-driven folk rock. Garrin and band have been touring extensively since 2000, when he released his debut, Living a Dream. Having seen him live recently I can attest to his charisma onstage--he's a striking looking young man, with the chops to back it up.
Most of the tunes on the album are originals, with a few covers thrown in. Some of the songs in this live release also appeared on his second CD, Nowhere is Brighter, which featured guest appearances by Boz Skaggs and members of Bonnie Raitt's band. This live set is a mixture of folk rock and pop tunes with pleasing vocals, insightful lyrics, and appealing guitar playing. Highlights include the catchy "Hungry Ghost," the story-song "Another Hour to Kill," the incredible hook of "Crazy Love," and a cover of the traditional "Hard Times." The buzz about Benfield is starting to build: some of these tunes have already found airplay on radio stations in San Francisco and elsewhere.
Susan J. Weiand
JamBase | San Francisco
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