Reality Check with KT: Ben Knight and The Welldiggers Take to the Highway
Ever since there have been highways, connecting the East Coast with the left coast; poets, artists and musicians have been in love with the back roads of America. The stories; sometimes brutal, often desperate and always less wholesome or beautiful than the life we try to sell in our TV commercials, hold us with rapt attention. There is a tangible feeling of freedom when you get into your car and head down a highway. It’s intoxicating. Woodie Guthrie, Kerouac and so many other storytellers meet wonderful characters in their travels, or perhaps they tell their own stories through the voices of these characters. Ben Knight is one of these storytellers. He isn’t just attempting to pull you into these tales. He wraps you in them, almost instantly. This album is a compelling collection of lives, all woven together; Ben’s voice, playing the main character. The words often accented by searing guitars or soft finger picking, depending on what the mood demands. This album is sonically as picturesque, as it is lyrically. You see the scene playing out; it’s really almost like watching a movie, or several short movies, strung together.
After having had a week with the album, to really soak it up, I sat down with Ben, to chat. As a songwriter myself, I love when an album makes my ears stand at attention, like this one has. It gives you something to aspire toward. Ben, has called Cincinnati home since December of 2012. He followed his, now wife, from Louisville, after a job she landed brought them to our town, a great place for a songwriter to land. The Welldiggers is a relatively new project. They have only released a demo at this point, Divining Rod, but they have been touring pretty extensively since forming. The current lineup includes; Jeremy Smart on lead guitar (real talk-Jeremy is one of my absolute favorite guitar players in town. He has this way of sneaking up on you. Extremely tasteful, but he throws down when it’s right. The perfect combination and not a note wasted. Very rare in lead players, no offense, y’all.) Jason Smart is the drummer and John Massey on Bass. This lineup is not quite a year old, but they’re jelling like a band that’s played for a decade together. I asked Ben about the importance of touring and he mentioned that this scene is so good, that on any given night, there may be several shows he’d like to go see. It’s not a fear of competing with the other shows around town, but rather, being smart about not playing too much. Folks will make a point to get out and see you if they know it may be awhile until the next time you play locally. “Touring is a chance to bring music to an audience that may not otherwise see you. Small towns-not to sound egotistical-give you the chance to be the coolest thing happening on a given night.” He also acknowledged the travels give him things to write about. One of the bands favorite places to play is in Tulsa at The Mercury Lounge, a little dive bar that hosts great music constantly. This summer they will be doing quite a bit of touring to support the release of American Highways. The lyrics, “I am drunk on mileage, I am chasing a childish dream. I am writing myself messages on bathroom walls, I hope to read, when I come back around…again”, reflect the sentiments about touring.
If you enjoy Southern Gothic authors, I highly recommend you pick up this album. If you love Americana or Alt Country, you need it as well. My favorite track on the entire album is a tune called Wedding Bands. It’s as complicated as the relationship at its center. “I put my hand, up to the glass. I can’t feel your skin. I can’t make it last. It broke my heart, you turned me in, but baby that’s over now, I’m yours again.” What a fucked up mess. But, how often, do we find ourselves outside of reason when it comes to matters of the heart? If you haven’t, you’re doing it wrong. American Highways is a great adventure, available just by hitting play. Hell, you may even recognize yourself in some of the characters.
Favorite Tracks: Robbery, Wedding Bands, American Highways