Benjy Ferree

Leaving the Nest

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By most accounts, Benjy Ferree is a bartender who lives and works in Washington, D.C., and spends a lot of his spare time in his bedroom writing tunes -- and judging from his first album, Leaving the Nest, his time has been well spent. Most of Ferree's songs fall somewhere between rollicking folk-rock and simple but heartfelt pop (though "Dogkillers!" shows the guy can rock pretty hard when he's provoked), and he sings them with a voice that's full of joy and yearning, despite the occasional cracks in his strong but slightly weathered tenor. Leaving the Nest was made with production assistance from Dennis Kane of Caligari and Brendan Canty of Fugazi, but this music shows precious little evidence of the influence of his hometown's music scene -- Leaving the Nest has the feeling of a casual back-porch jam out in the country or off by the lake (a vibe alluded to in the opening tune, "In the Countryside"), with a few talented pals on hand to help fill out the songs. However, while these performances sound informal, they're far from sloppy and never lack commitment; Ferree can certainly do playful, but there's enough emotional weight behind "The Desert," "Private Honeymoon," and "They Were Here" to keep the proceedings from sounding flippant, and Leaving the Nest is an album that's by turns witty, charming, deeply affecting, and genuinely moving; this is a remarkably strong and distinctive debut, and Ferree is most certainly an artist worth watching.

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