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Ben Ottewell - Shapes and Shadows

  by Benjamin Howarth

published: 6 / 4 / 2011

Ben Ottewell - Shapes and Shadows
Label: Eat Sleep Records
Format: CD


First-rate blues-influenced debut album from Gomez front man Ben Ottewell, which pleasingly does not depart radically from his work with his regular group

Ben Ottewell is pictured alone with nothing but an acoustic guitar on the cover of his first solo album. It sets the right tone - the picture of a man striking out on his own after more than a decade in the same band. But, it doesn’t capture the true character of this album, which is - like Ottewell’s work with his band Gomez - essentially collaborative in nature. One of the reasons Gomez have remained one of my favourite bands for more than a decade is the sense of a gang of friends working together. Their music is refreshingly ego-free. It makes sense, therefore, for Ottewell’s first ‘solo’ album to not really be solo at all. Instead, it is the product of a writing session with childhood friend and Tunng member Sam Genders, with the pair knocking a selection of songs that dated back five years into shape. Genders has a co-writer credit for every track. Songs written, he took himself off to Los Angeles to record this album with Will Golden in late-2009. After what must have seemed like an excessive wait, it is now finally seeing a release. Gomez fans will be pleased to hear that nothing here departs radically from what he has done in the past. The songs are still gently tuneful, with bluesy undertones and gently incorporated an unexpected twist into what seemed at first like a simple melody. The main selling point is still that marvellous voice - a bit swirling blues howl that suggests decades of whiskey and cigarettes. Its always a surprise to hear it come out of Ottewell’s mouth. This is a consistently enjoyable album. Standouts include the opening titular track, which sets a nice languid tone and the homesick blues number ‘Chicago’, on which Gomez band-mate Ian Ball pops by to add some piano. But best of all is ‘Chose’, a nimble piano ballad, which is one of those play-it-over-and-over again classics, and probably a good a song as Ottewell has ever been involved with.

Track Listing:-
1 Shapes And Shadows
2 Lightbulbs
3 All Brand New
4 Blackbird
5 Chicago
6 No Obstacles
7 Chose
8 Step Right Back
9 Take This Beach

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