PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.


Ben Glover: Atlantic

On Atlantic, redemption awaits in the cleansing waters of the river, if not in the chorus of the songs or the hallowed memory of Robert Johnson that Ben Glover invokes.

Ben Glover


Label: Carpe Vita Creative
US Release Date: 2014-09-01
UK Release Date: 2014-09-01

When an album starts with a song titled “This World Is a Dangerous Place”, it's hard to know whether that's a dire warning or a mere observation. In the case of Ben Glover's Atlantic, it's a bit of both. The tune goes on to sketch out details of life that are not so thoroughly drawn as to block either interpretation or interpolation. The listener can still inject herself into the specifically vague scene, whether as participant or witness, and come out the other side all the better for it.

Not so for “Oh Soul”, wherein Glover summons his inner tent revival preacher man. This is a hymn for the 21st century that makes you want to throw your hands in the air and ask for forgiveness even if you don't necessarily need it. Here, redemption awaits in the cleansing waters of the river, if not in the chorus of the song or the hallowed memory of Robert Johnson that Glover invokes. Johnson's ghost, along with the dirty grit of the South, also infuses the bluesy rock strains of “Too Long Gone”. This is pure, unadulterated Americana as done up by an Irishman. And he's really just hitting his stride.

As might be expected, “True Love's Breaking My Heart” calls forth a woeful steel moan on top of a lonesome waltz, while the driving acoustic guitar of “Prisoner” sounds exactly like you want it to as Glover sings of Delta mud and pecan trees. Starting with “Prisoner”, the middle section of Atlantic really delivers. The ominously sparse and uneasy Southern gothic drama of “Blackbirds” -- co-written and performed with Gretchen Peters -- would make Faulkner and McCullers proud. As the piece rounds the corner of the second chorus, a fuzzed-out guitar slides in, a harbinger of the darkness on the horizon.

With all the talk of blackbirds, whiskey, rivers, and “curtains of calico”, it is evident that Glover has really done his part to soak up Southern culture. Nowhere is that more clear than on the casually languid “The Mississippi Turns Blue”. But Glover only lets us linger for that moment before he offers up another tale of personal reckoning in “How Much Longer Can We Bend?” This one, though not necessarily optimistic, is set in framework that doesn't feel altogether hopeless. By the time “Take and Pay” drops, you actually want to clap and stomp and shout hallelujah. Closing the set, “New Year's Day” is so quiet you can hear both the background studio noise and the melancholy of letting go. Underneath those pangs, producer Neilson Hubbard lays down piano accents which are reminiscent of Matt Rollings' work on some of Lyle Lovett's best songs. Atlantic couldn't ask for a more perfect coda.


Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.





Jefferson Starship Soar Again with 'Mother of the Sun'

Rock goddess Cathy Richardson speaks out about honoring the legacy of Paul Kantner, songwriting with Grace Slick for the Jefferson Starship's new album, and rocking the vote to dump Trump.


Black Diamond Queens: African American Women and Rock and Roll (excerpt)

Ikette Claudia Lennear, rumored to be the inspiration for Mick Jagger's "Brown Sugar", often felt disconnect between her identity as an African American woman and her engagement with rock. Enjoy this excerpt of cultural anthropologist Maureen Mahon's Black Diamond Queens, courtesy of Duke University Press.

Maureen Mahon

Ane Brun's 'After the Great Storm' Features Some of Her Best Songs

The irresolution and unease that pervade Ane Brun's After the Great Storm perfectly mirror the anxiety and social isolation that have engulfed this post-pandemic era.


'Long Hot Summers' Is a Lavish, Long-Overdue Boxed Set from the Style Council

Paul Weller's misunderstood, underappreciated '80s soul-pop outfit the Style Council are the subject of a multi-disc collection that's perfect for the uninitiated and a great nostalgia trip for those who heard it all the first time.


ABBA's 'Super Trouper' at 40

ABBA's winning – if slightly uneven – seventh album Super Trouper is reissued on 45rpm vinyl for its birthday.


The Mountain Goats Find New Sonic Inspiration on 'Getting Into Knives'

John Darnielle explores new sounds on his 19th studio album as the Mountain Goats—and creates his best record in years with Getting Into Knives.


The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 60-41

PopMatters' coverage of the 2000s' best recordings continues with selections spanning Swedish progressive metal to minimalist electrosoul.


Is Carl Neville's 'Eminent Domain' Worth the Effort?

In Carl Neville's latest novel, Eminent Domain, he creates complexities and then shatters them into tiny narrative bits arrayed along a non-linear timeline.


Horrors in the Closet: Horrifying Heteronormative Scapegoating

The artificial connection between homosexuality and communism created the popular myth of evil and undetectable gay subversives living inside 1950s American society. Film both reflected and refracted the homophobia.


Johnny Nash Refused to Remember His Place

Johnny Nash, part rock era crooner, part Motown, and part reggae, was too polite for the more militant wing of the Civil Rights movement, but he also suffered at the hands of a racist music industry that wouldn't market him as a Black heartthrob. Through it all he was himself, as he continuously refused to "remember his place".


John Hollenbeck Completes a Trilogy with 'Songs You Like a Lot'

The third (and final?) collaboration between a brilliant jazz composer/arranger, the Frankfurt Radio Big Band, vocalists Kate McGarry and Theo Bleckman, and the post-1950 American pop song. So great that it shivers with joy.


The Return of the Rentals After Six Years Away

The Rentals release a space-themed album, Q36, with one absolute gem of a song.


Matthew Murphy's Post-Wombats Project Sounds a Lot Like the Wombats (And It's a Good Thing)

While UK anxiety-pop auteurs the Wombats are currently hibernating, frontman Matthew "Murph" Murphy goes it alone with a new band, a mess of deprecating new earworms, and revived energy.


The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 80-61

In this next segment of PopMatters' look back on the music of the 2000s, we examine works by British electronic pioneers, Americana legends, and Armenian metal provocateurs.


In the Tempest's Eye: An Interview with Surfer Blood

Surfer Blood's 2010 debut put them on the map, but their critical sizzle soon faded. After a 2017 comeback of sorts, the group's new record finds them expanding their sonic by revisiting their hometown with a surprising degree of reverence.


Artemis Is the Latest Jazz Supergroup

A Blue Note supergroup happens to be made up of women, exclusively. Artemis is an inconsistent outing, but it dazzles just often enough.


Horrors in the Closet: A Closet Full of Monsters

A closet full of monsters is a scary place where "straight people" can safely negotiate and articulate their fascination and/or dread of "difference" in sexuality.


'Wildflowers & All the Rest' Is Tom Petty's Masterpiece

Wildflowers is a masterpiece because Tom Petty was a good enough songwriter by that point to communicate exactly what was on his mind in the most devastating way possible.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.