Benjy Ferree Come Back To The Five And Dime Bobby Dee Bobby Dee

[Domino; 2009]

Styles: rock ’n’ roll singer/songwriter
Others: Jack White, Elvis Costello

From the age of 6 to 16, Bobby Driscoll was one of the most acclaimed child actors of all time; his roles in a slew of Disney hits earned him the title of Disney's "Golden Boy." Then he grew up, stopped being cute, and at the age of 31 was dead in an abandoned Manhattan tenement. Legend has it that his body went unidentified, leaving the Academy Award-winning former celebrity to be buried in an unmarked pauper's grave.

Benjy Ferree, himself a failed actor, found inspiration in the story of Driscoll, turning it into a concept for his sophomore album, Come Back To The Five And Dime Bobby Dee Bobby Dee. And, sure enough, the cover features Ferree donning Driscoll's character, a ’50s coif markered over Ferree's own hair for the black and white portrait. But aside from the introductory track, "Tired of Being Good," and occasional references to "Peter Pan" (Driscoll's final role for Disney), Driscoll is hardly an overt presence on the record — and for the better. Instead of harping on his muse, dragging a relatively simple — even if tragic — narrative on for 14 tracks, Ferree makes himself the star. Driscoll hangs more like a specter over the record, his tragedy snaking its tendrils into the songs as Ferree casts characters who, like Driscoll, are failed and fallen.

Musically, Come Back is as singularly Ferree's as his debut, 2006's Leaving The Nest, a concoction of Americana that doesn't rely too heavily on rustic/roots music for its vintage feel. Traces of doo-wop and teen idol pop dot the soundscape as Beach Boys harmony and rockabilly fuzz jitterbug together, while Marc Bolan's glam rock sashays nearby. It's a sound fittingly unique for Ferree's distinct (to say the least) voice, a somewhat nasal croon with a confident swagger and unique timbre that matches the fuzzy guitars and swinging beats the arrangements employ. The voice also gives Ferree a natural range that lets him mesh whimsy and gravity as on "What Would Pecos Do?", with its Muppet-worthy intro giving way to reveal a story about a hopeless and despondent protagonist. Here, then, is a songwriter capable of drawing remarkable depth from swinging pop-rock, crafting a distinctive voice among an oversaturated pop-music landscape and leaving a front-to-back winner of an LP as evidence.

1. Tired Of Being Good
2. Fear
3. Big Business
4. What Would Pecos Do?
5. Blown Out (Gold Doubloons and Pcs of 8)
6. The Grips
7. Iris Flowers
8. I Get No Love
9. Come To Me, Coming To Me
10. Whirlpool of Love
11. Pisstopher Christopher
12. When You're 16
13. Great Scott!
14. Zipperface Blues

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