Gig Review: Ben Bedford at Twickenham Folk Club
With just two albums behind him and a mere five years as a performing artist, Ben Bedford is making a considerable stir amongst those who value the poetry and passion of the classic singer/songwriter. His first UK gig was performed on March 14 in the intimate surrounds of the Twickenham Folk Club to an enthralled audience.
Several of the songs Bedford played dealt with vivid stories from the American Civil War. The poignancy of the young fighting man in the opening song, “Twenty One”, as he grasps the scale of the conflict ahead of him, is captured in the stark line I’d go back home but I don’t know how. Bedford tells in “Fisher’s Hill” how a bewildered young Confederate soldier loses an arm, and with it his wedding ring.
Halfway through the gig, Bedford noticed that the venue’s entrance door was being locked and remarked “That’s not to prevent latecomers arriving, it’s so that you hardcore folk fans don’t leave!”
Bedford also played songs from the United States’ 20th century history, on subjects such as the Dust Bowl Depression era and the murder of a 14-year-old boy in Mississippi in 1955 for allegedly wolf-whistling at a young white woman.
An oeuvre that Bedford rarely enters into as a writer is that of the love song. But “One Night At a Time” with its simple recording of everyday activities – Tomorrow I’ll scrape the ice off your car. I’m having fun. I hope you are – illustrates his abilities here too.
Bedford’s most famous song to date is the title track from his debut record, Lincoln’s Man. He prefaced this with his definition of a true folk song, “Your main character has to die at the end of the song. If he doesn’t, well … it’s a pop song!” This epic piece, running for over eight minutes, is a chilling, emotional look at the divisiveness of war when families split and end up opposing and even killing one another.
Bedford is keenly aware of his heritage, naming Richard Shindell and Jack London as two, among many, major influences. His song “Goodbye Jack” is an affectionate tribute to the latter. “He was also the first millionaire writer but died a pauper … so I guess he must have had a pretty good time!”
The evening ended with a rousing version of the traditional “Oh Shenandoah”, complete with full audience participation. Clearly the crowd in the Cabbage Patch pub also had a pretty good time.