Born in London and raised in Brooklyn, Ben De La Cour thereafter followed his muse to New Orleans before eventually settling in Nashville in 2013,
His chequered history and numerous vices have already been well documented in ‘The High Cost of Living Strange’(2018) and ‘Shadow Land’ (recorded straight after rehab in 2020). As De La Cour explains "Folk music has a long tradition of darkness, and darkness is something I know a lot about."
For his fifth record, no immediate end to his wayward lifestyle seems imminent nor any major shift in his pessimistic outlook. He sought out Jim ‘Wrong-Eyed Jesus’ White to produce the record; a man who certainly knows a thing or two about the Southern gothic sound which is De La Cour’s stock in trade.
The mood of the album is flagged by the cover photo of a rusting, abandoned car wreck which evokes the godforsaken wilderness zones rendered so vividly in the stories of Flannery O’Connor.
Of the recording process, De La Cour says The goal was to make an art record - something that felt small. But somehow, everything kept expanding and becoming more twisted as we went along, and here we are. I think Jim refers to these things as 'psychic bonsai.'"
When not writing from direct experience De La Cour’s day job as a clinical associate at a recovery centre for teenage boys doubtless gives him life stories to empathise with. On Numbers Game he duets with fellow East Nashville resident Becky Warren to sing about how the resilience of the human spirit equates to the gravity of human suffering.
The singer proves himself to be an expert on American towns that are worth escaping from; places where you either grow old in or become strange. For instance, Maricopa County is slow and moody portrait of a place where “everyone wants someone to blame” while the heartland rock Suicide Of Town warns of a destination to avoid at all costs.
The “dreams dressed in black” of the title track morph into pseudo religious musings of American Mind or form the backdrop to the tortured death march of Birdcage.
Fiddle and occasional orchestration soften the sinister edges but any light only glimmers faintly over this dark brand of Americana.
Ben De La Cour’s website