Ben Hemming‘s musical journey sounds like it should be a song. What began in a dead-end job and the end of a relationship took him on an unforgettable trip to America. Once in the US, he picked up a used guitar and performed across the southern states. It’s a journey that taught him a lot about music. Once he returned to the UK, he began work on his outstanding debut album Broken Man, following it up with the equally impressive albums City of Streets, The Devil Beside Me, and Broken Road. All of them showcasing his songwriting talents with moments such as “It rained so hard”, “Devil’s Soul”, and “Fading Out”.
Now Hemming returns with the fifth album Marked Man. While working on it, he says, “I feel I’ve surrounded myself with people who understand what I’m trying to achieve in my music. It’s a safe environment that has really helped develop my songwriting to the next level. I guess I found the self-belief I’ve been looking for”. He continues, “The album’s main concept is about feeling out of place in the world, singled out and isolated, an outlaw rejected from mainstream society and forced to find your own path. But in that feeling of rejection, of giving up of everything, you can be free to find out who you really are. Only in losing everything can you find yourself in a world at sea in confusion and loss of identity”. Now, let’s see what it has to offer.
“Lost Faith” sees his guitar set the dark bluesy and slightly grungy tone that this collection of songs will offer. His voice reflects the mood to share a tale about “giving up falsehoods that have held you back in life and starting again with new truths”. The arrival of “Losing My Way” brings a slight change in tempo and more grunge elements. Not that the opening track was poor, but this one lets his lyrical quality shine. He sings about “misplacing your home in the world”. A feeling highlighted in the hook’s repeated lines, “I’m losing my way, losing my way”, As he delivers it, the emotional tone gives it more impact.
Hemming’s acoustic guitar shines throughout “Marked Man” as yet again it sets the pace and tone. Because of its reserved sound, it gives another opportunity for his storytelling quality to shine yet again. Something that excels even more during “Cruel World”. A song he says, “A reflective and introspective song for me. In many ways it looks back at my roots, both musically with the acoustic Blues of my early records, and lyrically”. His acoustic guitar delivers an infectious mood, with the drums adding to the toe-tapping groove. A blend of rock/grunge helps set up the hook, “I woke from a dream, and I was blind / Everything I touched became intwined / to this cruel world”.
Blending blues with an infectious beat comes “Living On Death Row”. With verses that march to their own beat, then explodes during the chorus with his vocals and guitar. Following on comes “Six Feet Under”, which offers more restrained verses and attention-grabbing hooks. Then comes “The Road to Righteousness”, delivering more of his fantastic way with words. The guitars and drums chug along to their own groove as Hemming begins with the captivating opening, “Don’t let the devil take your heart / Don’t let the angles tear you apart”. The moody tone helps to share its story about a “metaphor religious repentance as a way to explore the contractions of modern life and the loss of faith in contemporary society”. A song that gets even better as he powers out the hook, “Don’t stumble on the road to righteousness / Don’t miss the chance to confess / Don’t speak with your mouth full of lies / Don’t help the truth to it demise”.
Ben Hemming new album ‘Marked Man’ continues his trend of songs filled with impressive storytelling and compelling soundtracks. Another collection of songs of his not to be missed.
The pace slows back down to create the standout moment from the album. As soon as “Cold Heart” begins, his acoustic guitar is captivating on its own before Hemmings competes for the listener’s attention. Both intertwine to create an enchanting atmosphere. As soon as he shares the opening lines, “I’ve seen inside the coldness of your heart / I’ve felt the meaning in my life fall apart”, it’s hard not to notice a change in his delivery. He conveys each word without urgency and with space, giving it time to breathe. The free-flowing feel of his story makes it even more compelling. Lyrically it’s minimalist compared to the others, but it takes nothing away from his storytelling quality. The arrangement of the various musical instruments enhances things further with its stunning soundtrack. It is a delight to consume from beginning to end.
A slow moody tone flows throughout “Redemption”. It reflects the story about dealing with regret of past mistakes. You can feel the emotions in this song, from his guitar to how his words are shared. Bringing things to a close is another standout moment with “The Valley of the Damned”. His guitar work during the intro is mesmerizing. It continues to impress as the track progresses. As always, his lyrical quality is impressive. However, it is his six-string that stands out the most. As it finishes, it closes off another excellent release by Ben Hemming. It is an album filled with great storytelling supported by some great work on his guitar. Go and give Marked Man a listen today. It will not be disappointing.