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Rattlebag

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Album Review

The sophomore long-player from the lead guitarist (and one of the three distinctive vocalists) of evocative English indie rockers Gomez, Rattlebag dials back on the heady arrangements and lush harmonies of Ben Ottewell's meal-ticket band in favor of something a little bit more homespun. Even more intimate than his alluring and largely overcast 2011 debut Shapes & Shadows, Rattlebag is a largely pared-down country-folk and Northern soul affair that finds Ottewell, a gifted and versatile player, relying heavily on his meaty voice (think Ray LaMontagne meets Eddie Vedder) and economical guitar picking to do most of the work — it takes over a minute of unaccompanied, Zeppelin-esque acoustic guitar work on the opening track before Ottewell begins to howl at the moon. That's not to say that Rattlebag is a straight-up coffeehouse gig, as evidenced by the tasty flourishes of Hammond organ, pedal steel, and brushed percussion that so often swoop in just as things are beginning to get a little too candid, especially on rowdier tracks like the bouncy "Papa Cuckoo," "Shoreline," and the bluesy "Patience & Rosaries," but songs like "Starlings," "Stone," and the largely ambient "No Place" give off a distinct bucolic and lived-in vibe that sets them apart from the rest of the cuts. They may not be as immediate, but they connect because they feel less like Gomez castaways and more like real-time emissions from the heartland.

Biography

Born: England

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

Ben Ottewell is best known as a member of Gomez, a British rock act whose debut album, Bring It On, won the Mercury Music Prize in 1998. Gomez never had a designated frontman -- Ottewell, Ian Ball, and Tom Gray all sang, and the band’s albums usually included several vocal performances from each -- but Ottewell took the helm more than his bandmates, making him one of the group's most prominent members. After releasing the band's sixth album in 2009, he began paving the...
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Rattlebag, Ben Ottewell
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