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MP3 Craig Bennett - Happy Hollowdays

With his elegantly layered pop, lush and compelling arrangements and beautifully moody lyrics, Craig Bennett has been called the Best "British" songwriter to come out of America in a long time.

12 MP3 Songs
POP: British Pop, ROCK: Instrumental Rock

For some of us, it has been quite awhile since Great Britain produced a singer-songwriter that has truly captured our attention. Though they haven''t exactly been wasting their time, you can grow tired of watching Billy Bragg chase down Woody Guthrie scribbles and Elvis Costello play tag with his heroes. Luckily, one of the best singer-songwriters to emerge from the British pop tradition can be found right under our noses. In Georgia, in fact.

No, Craig Bennett isn''t British. But should he have chosen to tell us that he was, it''s doubtful many of us outside of his friends and family would have known. He certainly has the slightly depressed, melancholy sensibilities of tunesmiths like Morrisey or Robert Smith, while incorporating a form of disjointed whimsy recalling folkies like Donovan. Working in a variety of light textures with dark undertones, Bennett is really a poet with a guitar, spinning verse that doesn''t always match the meter of the tunes and crafting tunes that are well-balanced between fundamental pop structures and his more obscure tendencies.

With a little bit of Nick Drake balancing out the little bit of John Lennon in stark pop bliss of "Wandering Ways," we are introduced to Bennett''s tendency to drag his songs out with swelling dramatic repeated choruses. Generally, these are not unwelcome codas to top off his complex pop arrangements, but when songs pass the eight-minute mark, Bennett''s in danger of entering territory even Elliott Smith hasn''t dared explore. Occasionally, when Bennett couples a line such as "our love, like that Soviet tanker, nothing left beneath unopened arms," with his detached breathy croon, you can almost envision Belle & Sebastian, but without the hipster baggage.

For the most part, though, Bennett evokes the visage of David Bowie. Besides possessing very similar vocal abilities, Bennett colors his songs with true nonchalant cool. Lines like "I Say I''m a Marxist...it seems to appeal to girls that think. I say I''m an artist ‘cause all my life that''s what I''ve been told to say," are highly indicative of the sly humor that runs through this largely moody set. Opening with "I was voted ‘most likely to seethe'' by those who knew little about me" amidst a background of atmospherics and quiet guitar, Bennett gives no hints that the track is about to lurch into a sunny chorus couched in chirping horns. Maintaining a cohesive focus, the majority of tracks are colored by a range of textures and tempos with melodies sunk deep below the surface in a sinister undertow of pianos, cellos and violins.

Overall, Craig Bennett is a songwriter for whom no obvious contemporary parallel exists. His songs are neither brash nor overly florid. His melodies are not bold, though his words carry a visceral weight. In short, he''s the best "British" songwriter America has produced in some time, and his brand of elegantly layered pop is well worth checking out.
Matt Fink, Delusions of Adequacy (https://www.tradebit.com)

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