Who is Brendon Benson and why should anyone care? Prior to The Raconteurs that would have been a valid question.
The Michigan born musician released his debut album, "One Mississippi," in '96. The album went nowhere fast resulting in his label, Virgin, dropping him. About the only positive was the initial formation of Benson's backing band The Well Fed Boys.
A second shot came six years later ('02) with "Lapalco." While the album received critical praise and sold far more copies than "One Mississippi," Benson was still a long way from any measurable recognition. But he was getting noticed.
From "Lapalco," the song "Good To Me" was covered by the White Stripes. It was the B-side of "Seven Nation Army." This was one of a handful of occasions when White Stripes frontman Jack White played a key roll in Benson's career. And when Benson played England's Leeds Festival he finished his set with the song "Jet Lag" and a guest appearance by Meg White (the other half of White Stripes).
"One Mississippi" was re-issued in '03. Also out was a six track EP, "Welfed Boy." That was followed by another EP, "Metarie." This set featured a cover of Paul McCartney's "Let Me Roll It." And guess who contributed backing vocals: Jack White.
"The Alternative To Love" raised Benson's profile a bit. The '05 single "Spit It Out" charted, just barely, in the U.K. and "Cold Hands Warm Heart" landed in commercials and TV shows. All that paled compared to his next venture - The Raconteurs. White was the group's most famous member and the press coverage gave the group a huge boost. The commercially successful '06 debut "Broken Boy Soldiers" was followed, two years later, by "Consolers Of The Lonely."
While White was busying himself with The Dead Weather, Benson issued his fourth solo effort, "My Old Familiar Friend." Benson's Raconteurs tenure paid immediate dividends. Rolling Stone magazine actually took note of (and reviewed) the album.
"What Kind Of World," recorded in Nashville and released on Benson's his own label Readymade Records, arrived in '12. About a year and a half later, Benson returned with '13s "You Were Right."
1996 One Mississippi
2005 The Alternative To Love
2009 My Old, Familiar Friend
2012 What Kind Of World
2013 You Were Right
Brendon Benson has every intention of turning his Raconteurs' notoriety into a stand alone career - not one dependant on boosts from Jack White. The main difference between "The Alternative To Love" and "My Old Familiar Friend" is that the songwriting and performances are stronger and more assured on the latter.
Benson's melodic power-pop rarely falters on "My Old Familiar Friend." "A Whole Lot Better" is a great "kiss-off" romp. "Gonowhere" is a Paul McCartney-styled ballad that's surprisingly effective. However, the killer track is "Eyes On The Horizon."
Like White, Benson has strong retro tendencies. "You Were Right" has a vintage sound lodged between Eric Clapton's departure from Blind Faith and George Harrison "All Things Must Pass." It's acoustic chords, stinging guitars and "whatever's right' vocals.
"Long Term Goal" plies Boogie Blues and is followed by the jangling ballad "I Don't Want To See You Anymore." "Red, White And Blues" provides the Country Rock. Whether intended or not, the uptempo "Rejuvenate Me" steals the spotlight with a line "too lazy to work, too scared to steal."