If we were all on the Oregon Trail together, Benjamin James Caldwell would be the young gentleman still singing softly around the campfire when everyone else has all gone to bed. Somehow he would still be up at the crack of dawn with the rest of us, feeding the oxen and the horses, looking amazing, eating quick breakfast before facing another long day passing the prairie golden hair gleaming in the Rocky Mountain sunshine. Caldwell is from Australia, so I suppose that he probably has not spent much time on the Oregon Trail. He currently lives in Canada and has played with Canadian bands “Broken Down Suitcase” and “Stellar Radio Choir”. He is now up to his neck in his solo endeavor, releasing his self-titled EP early this year.
“Formaldehyde” is a topic that I love to find in music. To me, there is a certain nostalgia to this chemical. It’s pungent and distinct smell is only found in certain places, surrounding certain activities which most often involve death and invoke emotion. This is a nostalgic song. “Formaldehyde, she was gonna be my bride.” There are memories of a beautiful love, a free relationship. Then, there is intense missing of this girl, treasuring of her memories. I don’t know what happened to her but formaldehyde smells of death. “We were bound by love and that’s all that it could be. Formaldehyde, she made a fool of me.”
“Rosie” begins with guitar that sounds like footsteps. Caldwell’s voice is rhythmic, organic. It feels young and timeless, experienced and musty. It’s the voice that you find in the attic and wonder who put it there because it never went out of fashion. “Rosie” is a love song. It’s a pretty love song. Not sad or crazy. This is a song about two people who have been through a lot together. It is a song about a man whose woman has loved and supported him through thick and thin. Caldwell’s voice is joined by the soprano tones of Sam Buckinham on the curves and corners of the choruses. This song is perfect and beautiful. You should all go listen.
“It seems life ain’t as fair as they’d have you believe. We’re all treading water, just kickin’ the breeze.” So begins my favorite track of this EP. “Sweet Redemption” is a slower, steadier song with soaring, heartfelt vocals, whisky barrel tones, and birdlike hope. Hope for redemption, hope for the future. Hope is found in friends, in change, in offering a hand to another human. This is one of the most beautiful and genuine songs I have ever heard. I feel it in my toes and in my soul.
If you enjoy earthy male voices, composting, the rocky mountains, Canada, the outback, lawn chairs by the pool, falling in love, nostalgia, beginnings and endings, birds, rhythmic guitar, harmonies with female voices, footsteps, finding treasures, thrift stores, or good beer–you should check out Benjamin James Caldwell. He’s touring western Canada and I am hoping that he hops on down to the Midwestern United States. I would love to see him live. He is an excellent musician with a great voice and a talent for beautiful song-writing.