Interpreting the Grateful Dead
"Garrin Benfield" Press Release (2019):
Some creative projects are better left unplanned. Sometimes stepping out of the way and letting the music happen without any particular destination in mind produces the most honest results. It is in this spirit of improvisation that Garrin Benfield announces the release of a self-titled live album recorded at a few solo acoustic gigs in the Summer of 2018.
“The whole thing feels like kismet to me”, Garrin recalls. “I had been playing a lot of gigs without the addition of the live looping jams, and started to feel like I wanted to document how my unadorned acoustic shows were sounding. I just happened to mention to the engineer at one of the gigs that it would be cool to record the shows, because I loved the way he was mixing them. When he sent me the files, enough time had passed that I had the perspective to hear that these recordings had potential for a release, which we started preparing via email right away.”
Though eclectic in its source material, the album manages to be cohesive in Benfield’s nuanced delivery and in the warm production quality that is a document of how the shows actually sounded.
“I had been playing a lot of new covers in my live sets that had yet to be recorded, and this album captures a whole bunch of them, plus solo versions of some of my own tunes. The track list is pretty lengthy, so I arranged it into two sets, like I might sequence the songs at an actual show”, Benfield says.
Featuring four songs from the Grateful Dead canon, the album also fearlessly explores songs by David Bowie, Paul Simon, Radiohead, Gillian Welch, Bob Dylan, and Bruce Cockburn. Benfield has nestled three originals onto the CD, and — not constrained by the time limits of the physical format — five originals and one song by Phish in the digital download and streaming release.
“I love how this album fell together, how the set list managed to be so diverse without any real micro-managing from me, and that it’s honest — there’s no auto tuning or overdubs anywhere”, Garrin says. “I made quick, instinctive decisions about what songs to include and in what order they worked best. No focus groups.”
“Garrin Benfield” is available at garrin.com, store.cdbaby.com, apple music, spotify, and all other streaming platforms.
The Wave Organ Song Press Release (2012):
In an age when “tracks” have overtaken the art of the album, Garrin Benfield announces the release of “The Wave Organ Song”, a hauntingly honest song cycle that captures an artist who has tapped into a wellspring of inspiration. “The Wave Organ Song” is a perfectly paced musical journey that might best be accompanied by candlelight and a bottle of Pinot Noir.
Lovingly recorded as to capture every breathy nuance, this collection of in-studio solo performances is an unadorned and chillingly intimate emotional travelogue. With the gauzy backdrop of San Francisco, Benfield sings of attempting to emerge from a self imposed isolation to once again connect with what moves us to create in the first place. While the lyrics are serious, the shimmering melodies make this a collection that reaches out and quietly insists on itself.
Known as a road warrior and guitar innovator who has spent years developing a complex, loop-driven solo show, on “The Wave Organ Song” Benfield eschews a traditional display of virtuosity and instead focuses on his voice and gently fingerpicked electric guitar accompaniment. He stumbled on this approach while deep into the overdub process of the now abandoned first sessions for this album.
“It seemed the more layers we added, the farther away we were getting from the essence of the material” Benfield recalls. In an effort to refocus, he recorded a few solo versions of the tunes and immediately felt that he had hit on something more true. Abandoning the full-band versions of the new songs, Benfield and engineer/co-producer Michael Rodriguez started over, and “The Wave Organ Song” began to take it’s current form.
“This was as difficult as any recording project I’ve been a part of. Maybe more so because I was trying to get complete, unedited takes” said Benfield. He was not alone in this effort, however. “The Wave Organ Song” also features Benfield’s first lyrical collaborations, with Jason Durant and, on one song, Deanna Walker.
“If one thing was going to prevent me from finishing a song, sometimes for years, it would be a missing verse or bridge. So working with those two was very motivating” Benfield said. Their efforts yielded songs that travel gently from the deeply personal (“Moanin’ Low”, “No Compass”) to narratives so detailed as to be cinematic (“Mexico”, “Snakes in the Woodpile”). In between, Benfield hits on universal sentiments with innovative Americana settings (“Rock n’ Roll”, “Are You With Me”), and indulges his pop leanings (“Colors in You” and his cover of the recently deceased Alex Chilton’s “Thirteen”).
For those who think they know Benfield, this release will reveal an artist that is truly in the zone, with the newfound maturity to deliver a song straight to the heart.
“The Wave Organ Song” is Garrin Benfield’s fifth full length CD of original songs. He gained notice in 2000, with his stark tribute to Matthew Shepard, “What You’re Hiding”, which was used in a production of the Laramie Project. In 2002, after recording his second CD, “Nowhere is Brighter” with Bonnie Raitt’s rhythm section and guest Boz Scaggs, Benfield took up a relentless touring schedule, both as a solo artist and with his band. Some of these increasingly improvisation-heavy sets were documented on the 2003 release “August Live”. 2004 saw the release of “Where Joy Kills Sorrow”, and Benfield’s first foray into live improvisational looping, which enabled him to tour solo but with added layers of beats, bass lines and the searing lead guitar Benfield’s hardcore fans have come to expect.
Playing eclectic sets at hundreds of shows every year, Benfield has become an underground favorite at festivals, rock clubs, coffee houses and house parties.