Nashville's Ben Hall, originally from Okolona, Mississippi, is barely twenty years old, and he has already has won flat-picking contests from Kentucky to Arkansas. Like another great young guitarist, William Tyler, Hall is part of the Lambchop orbit, learning Nashville's music traditions from a non-traditionalist angle.
Hall has been Tompkins Square's hidden gem for some time as he played alongside Charlie Louvin on his last two albums before Louvin's passing earlier this year. Ben Hall! marks a deserving opportunity for this guitarist to shine on his own. Despite his many musical journeys as a side man, this youngster has properly decided to stay close to his teenage roots by making an album of stripped-down flat-picking guitar gems on his self-titled (with an exclamation!) debut.
Produced by noted roots music guru, Eric "Roscoe" Ambel, Hall's record sticks to the basics. It's guitar, bass, drums with only an occasional vocal by Hall. The lineup of songs are from decades ago with only one original in the bunch ("Mimi and Me").
Hall takes the listener on a Travis/Atkins-styled ride through a catalog of songs by classic writers like JD Loudermilk ("Windy and Warm"), Roger Miller ("King Of The Road"), and Woody Guthrie ("Oklahoma Hills"). Hall doesn't take too many liberties with these songs. He wants to honor the tradition, and he does so with a soulful simplicity. This is the kind of album James Burton could have made back in the late 60s - classic sounds that never become old.
By the time Hall ends the album with the Louvins' "Every Time You Leave," he has come full circle back to the legend that he most recently backed. Ben Hall! marks the beginning of what should be a long and fruitful career. Hall is starting on the right foot. Now, we can enjoy sitting back and seeing where he take things.
- Jim Markel