Ben Kweller - Changing Horses

Already well-known in some music circles, Ben Kweller's latest release was a surprise to many as it's mainly a record of country songs.  What shouldn't be a surprise is that a kid from Texas would want to write and record a country album.

You can take the boy out of the country buy you can’t take the country out of the boy.” For Ben Kweller that phrase has been his life since day one.  Despite being from Texas, Kweller moved to New York City, became an indie pop star with three album releases prior to deciding to return home to record his fourth album, “Changing Horses.”  The title is an apt one because it finds the hipster dusting off a cowboy hat and recording a traditional-country leaning album.  And despite some traditionalists who may jostle at the notion that “another outsider” is recording a country album, they haven’t really given Kweller or “Changing Horses” a fair shake. 

The record’s opening track, “Gypsy Rose” walks up right into the vocal with twangy guitar, dobro and a nice two-step rhythm section that shows off Kweller’s appreciation for old-school country music.  “Old Hat” recalls the Jayhawks with it’s countrier than mainstream country sound, particularly the presence of pedal steel guitar, and lyrics.  Country music’s always had a love for trucker and gospel songs and “Fight,” which is catchier than just about any country song released this decade, manages to be both things.

“Ballad Of Wendy Baker” is actually not that far removed from what Kweller’s recorded on his other albums and “Sawdust Man” has a jovial vibe that’s not far removed from something the Beatles may have recorded.  “Wanting Her Again” has a classic country vibe that is really a pleasure to listen to, from the guitar ‘walking-up’ to the steel guitar’s prominence throughout the record.   Ben Kweller may have become know via his New York releases but his heart has always had Country within it.  “Changing Horses” is one of the nicest surprises of the early part of 2009 and Here’s hoping that he records another record like “Changing Horses” in the future.