Brooke Benson New Album ‘I Am The Sun’

Brooke Benson is a rare artist. Whereas some artists create poetry put to music, then sing that poetry, Benson many times recites her poems over music with the EP I Am the Sun. Benson is originally from Los Angeles, where she immediately gravitated to activism and the arts – including poetry. Perhaps her most high-profile mixture of the arts and activism was when she created a buzz after writing a piece for Marianne Williamson’s 2015 congressional campaign. She even performed alongside the spiritual teacher and writer at various events.

The album’s best song, “Back in the Day,” is exactly what its title says it is. The composition, built upon a simple, repeated musical pattern, finds Benson reminiscing about growing up in Los Angeles. There, she listens to the Doobie Brothers and the Bee Gees. There is also where she receives unwanted affection from a boy. She sings a lot about all the things she could have been. The world was an open book back then, where she could write in whatever kind of person she wanted to become. Music played a big role then, just as it does now, as she also namedrops The Go-Go’s and Cyndi Lauper along the way.

“I Sing For You” is Benson’s most fun musical moment. It hearkens back to the beat era, or at the very least, Rickie Lee Jones heyday with its beatnik-esque, minimalist bass line. One of the people she ‘sings for’ is her grandmother, Judith, who escaped Europe just before the Holocaust and how her grandmother’s troubled life compares with her own easier upbringing in ‘the golden state.’ She sings about those personal moments, as well as about social activism. The bottom line is that there are so many important reasons to sing one’s song(s). Yet, even though she has so many good motives to sing her songs, she seems to be followed by a dark cloud. Compared with her relatives from the past, as well as the pressing struggles of so many around her, she herself is nevertheless undeniably troubled. “Why does this shadow take ahold of me?” she asks herself repeatedly during the song.

The project’s title song takes on a traditional, folk-y sound colored by lonesome, gypsy fiddle. On it, Benson sings – perhaps to herself – “If you follow your heart, you can never go wrong.” Finding one’s direction is oftentimes a scary journey, but Benson wants to remind herself to keep her priorities straight. “Go With The Flow” also incorporates fiddle, but also does so with a touch of soulful organ, too.

Brooke Benson is a rare bird of an artist. She’ll never be confused with female pop tarts or diva singers. Instead, she’s a serious artist that loves words and how these words sound against various musical beds. In a few cases, she sounds a bit like the female version of Bruce Cockburn. He, too, incorporates poetry, music, social activism and spirituality into his overall artistic approach. Benson’s output is not the variety you can listen to as mere background music. She demands your full attention. This is ‘listening’ music, not just beds of sound that wash over you; even though many of this EP’s instrumental portions are quite good. Much like the sun alluded to in the release’s title, Brooke Benson simply won’t be ignored.

-Dan MacIntosh