Way back in the dark ages (well, the seventies) TV talent shows were fairly popular. This was of course way before the Simon Cowell perversities that pollute our minds these days. There was Opportunity Knocks and New Faces, the latter with a panel of judges who were in the main Tin Pan Alley types. I mention this as Steve Somers, father of Ben, notes in the liner for this album that his first break was as a winner on New Faces in the mid seventies, he even provides a link to a video of the performance on his website, a rabbit hole I fell into as I spent far too long watching related time capsules on YouTube. It certainly was a different world back then.
Anyway. Since then Steve’s kicked around the business playing and singing or supporting dozens of artists (Lonnie Donegan, Joe Brown, Glen Campbell, Johnny Cash, Billy Jo Spears) and leading his own bands which have generally played Country and Western Swing. Ben’s been a musician for as long as he can remember and again has an impressive resume having worked with Dr. John, Taylor Swift, Seal and Dizzee Rascal (first time appearance for Mr. Rascal on Blabber’n’Smoke I believe). Together the pair have played their favourite Country songs for some time but for The Highway Is My Home they’ve gathered together a tight little band to deliver 11 cracking slices of good old fashioned delights.
With Steve on acoustic guitar and Ben on double bass they share the vocals and are backed by Matt Park on pedal steel and Chris Haigh on fiddle with electric guitar duties shared between Rob Updegraff and Marcus Bonfanti. A talented bunch as a brief glance at their respective CVs will confirm and as such well able to nail the various strands of classic Country they tackle here. The guitars fizz and burn while the pedal steel is a delight throughout. The highlight is their version of Dallas Frazier’s Elvira goes back to its original Southern soul grit groove with Park and Updegraff’s respective solo turns quite magnificent.
Ten of the songs are covers, some familiar (TVZ’s Loretta, Bob Wills’ San Antonio Rose and Hank’s Jambalaya), others less so (Paul Burch’s If You’re Gonna Love (C’est Le Moment) and Sydney Bechet’s Wabash Blues). They’re all delivered with panache with the band dipping into Western Swing, bluegrass and lovelorn waltzes with an out and out rocker on the thrilling Seven Nights To Rock. The one self penned song, The Highway Is My Home, pales somewhat in comparison to its neighbours. A breezy number similar in vein to Gentle On My Mind it’s delivered excellently with some valiant fiddle and fluid pedal steel but ultimately it fails to pack the punch delivered by the other songs.
And if you want to watch the youthful Mr. Somers on New Faces look here.