Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Patrick Stolley and Brad Kopplin
Benjy Ferree is one of those chaps that you meet once in a lifetime and think to yourself that maybe they're made of pixie dust, the spirits of pied pipers, drifters, vagabonds and explorers, jet fuel and the different pieces of a galaxy that were once floating and airborne and are now shaped into a body of some kind that goes by a name. He's a force and a comfortably overpowering character who dives into a persona that is so magnificent because it's just him being himself, not him portraying a man who's portraying a bluff. He's kind of blinding in all that he's got going on at the same time and he seems like he'd be a bottomless well of stories about those interesting people he's met in the strangest places.
The debut album, Leaving the Nest, by this man - an actor who was pitted and chewed up by Los Angeles, sending him back east - is a collection of disparate climates, periods and people, all harnessed by a candied voice and Ferree's imaginative play with instrumentation. The subject matter wanders through time and predicament, from the scandalous secret love affair between Thomas Jefferson and his slave, Sally Hemings, to a present day musing about a presidential motorcade. It's a post-modern take on folk music, taking a back porch/countrified soap opera - the succulent gossip and the dramatic drippings - and turning it into a prism that is motored by colorful shreds of detail and development both highly serious and aloof at the same time. There's a sense that perfection isn't the end goal, but the chance to move something through a turn of verse or phrase is.
Ferree's found a new home in Washington, D.C. and the District of Columbia is a lyrical playground, supplying him with countless fodder for songs that even when they're set presently send off a wave of historical ambrosia. He admits to going walking around Arlington National Cemetery for the fun of it and he perceives all of the past around him. He feels the ghosts breathing heavy against his bare skin and he inhales all that has come before him, trying to understand it and put it in the proper context that he needs it to be in. Ferree walking with ghosts - the imagined picture of the guy strolling through the cemetery on a day when the sun's streaming through the sky and turning the leaves on trees yellow because it's so bright, side-by-side with an aberration is fun. He probably makes those ghosts want to live again, maybe come to one of his shows or just shoot the shit with him for a few days.