A Swede domiciled in the UK Benjamin Folke Thomas has been making a bit of a name for himself on the London scene as a singer/songwriter in the Dylan mould and an accomplished guitar picker. He released an EP in 2010 and now follows that up with his debut album Too Close To Here which does beg comparison with Mr. Zimmerman from time to time but allows him to shine as his own man albeit with a slew of influences and which raises a suspicion that had he been the next Dr. Who he would have set the Tardis to land on the cusp of the sixties and seventies.
Thomas wanders through various styles on the album with some songs reminiscent of the dexterity of Pentangle while there is a whiff of the romanticism of Al Stewart (before he went all FM) along with a hint of the American influenced pub rock that included Ducks Deluxe, Brinsley Schwartz,Sniff ‘n’ the Tears and even the early Dire Straits especially on the opening song, Someday. Love Somebody which follows has an endearing rough and ready delivery with the band teetering on the edge of losing the beat but always recovering just in time. Thomas next delivers his first killer song, Blues For You which mixes Dylan, Fred Neil and Davey Graham in equal measure as his gruff voice reaches back into sixties folk blues and comes up with a bittersweet love song that stands up well in comparison to many standards of that era with lines like ” my lungs are heavy and my skin feels weak my soul rattles every time you speak your eyes are pretty but all I see is sin.”
Extend No Greeting is another superb song which recalls the raga guitar sagas folk listened to while wrapped up in fragrant smoke while the emotive Bye Bye Baby (Bye Bye) stands out by dint of the lyrics which name check Warren Zevon while recalling Bruce Springsteen over a backing which could have been laid down by the Band on Planet Waves.
All this talk of influences runs the risk of tagging Thomas as an “oldies” or tribute act but he has the talent to channel these influences into an album that’s vibrant and exciting so that the motor mouth talking blues of OK Blues takes Dylan by the throat and drags him into the 21st Century while I’m Alive resurrects Ronnie Lane for one more whirl around the campfire. In the meantime a song like Let Her Down, the centrepiece of the album that has a spine chilling feel as the guitars summon up supernatural sounds is proof that Thomas can update a folk ballad tradition and add his own lyrical sparkle to it. Superb stuff.