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Living a Dream

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Album Review

Garrin Benfield's pleasant voice and guitar playing are clear and direct on this 13-song debut, Living a Dream. The title track starts things off with an up-tempo beat and cryptic existential message, the music perfect behind a relationship that seems to be going sideways. Benfield writes often in the first person and "Vacation" has the band performing with methodical precision as interesting sound effects on the chorus voice add to the song's mystique. It's hard to categorize this West Coast musician who provides lead and harmony vocals as well as acoustic and electric guitars, baritone guitar, and bass. Michael Rodriguez's keyboards and co-production understand the singer's ideas, especially on the thought-provoking "Too Much Information" — it could be a modern version of McGuiness Flint or a serious Hudson Brothers, the elegant timbre of that pop band when they put their minds to it. You don't need to hear the name Matthew to figure out "What You're Hiding" is about: Matthew Shepherd, intolerance, and the aggression of so-called Christians of the "Christian Right," a radio broadcast with anti-gay sentiment plays toward the end of the song. This particular track has more angst than the majority of the Living a Dream CD; things come right back down with the mellow "Already Heard," a beautiful story of two lovers in the forest, one telling the other what he's "already heard." Though openly gay, the singer doesn't flaunt that fact in these songs and must be commended for the subtle way he gets his point across. Creative guitar riffs abound to help Benfield convey his message, but the musicianship is a priority, and including the wonderful instrumental "Theme From Calaveras" gives the listener an idea of what this artist is saying without the words and voice. All 13 tracks are very strong; Eighth Note Records included the lyrics in the glossy, six-page insert. Though there's not a traditional "hit" on this CD (the title track comes closest), Living a Dream is still a very pleasant and thought-provoking collection of essays and sounds. Garrin Benfield is a find, and one wonders what he will come up with after he has five or six albums under his belt. This one shows that the artist has great potential.

Living a Dream, Garrin Benfield
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