Talented multi-instumentalist Scott Bennett does it all on this artful, lush, impressive debut, with a distinctive voice that rivals that of David Mead's.
The Dotted Line is, for the most part, an ambitious project by Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Scott Bennett. Though not a regular Wondermint, Bennett has spent the past few years as a key member of the touring ensemble surrounding Brian Wilson. As such, it's obvious that Bennett is well-versed in matters of classic pop and rock. With his own songs, he takes that strong foundation and builds powerful, grandly emotional music that surrounds his great vocals.
In listening to this album, I immediately thought about David Mead, particularly his first release, The Luxury of Time, which surrounded his distinctive voice with similarly grandiloquent arrangements. On The Dotted Line, Bennett's fine voice takes center stage, though he also plays guitars, keys, vibes, bass, and drums and assorted percussion on this CD (in fact, Brian Wilson has said of Bennett that he is "the most talented musician I've ever met").
In no way does this seem like a debut -- every song is layered with lush sounds, and there's plenty to enjoy here, a full banquet of 11 solid tracks. The CD leads off with "Unbelievable", a fine showcase for the range of Bennett's voice. He reaches high registers on the chorus, and does so effortlessly in this dramatic tale of a man jilted for another, beset by a feeling it was the worst day in his life.
"Ever After" (co-written with drummer Matt Walker and synth bass man Sol Snyder) is a pumped-up musical tribute to John Lennon, taken from us far too quickly: "Your voice pulled love from hate / Found beauty in the heart of all our fate / When we needed peace, you took us all to bed / And since the time you passed / We'd crawl across broken glass for one more melody".
One of my personal favorites here is the delightful "She Is Light". This story of a graceful savior of sorts is chock full of sweet melody, harmony, and guitars (including a most impressive lead). What more could one want of a song?
Things go a bit more solemn with "Temperamental Side", featuring Bobby MacIntyre, Brett Simons, and Mike Corcoran. This song sounds ultra-commercial and radio-ready (or suited for adoption by television or film). It's all about musical self-explanation, dammit, so give the guy a break -- seems he's got a tendency to be passionate and emotional sometimes.
I find myself partial to the all Bennett performances here -- he's got a great sense of infectious melodic hooks and sounds like an accomplished full band. "Anything" is layered with sounds in a wonderful arrangement. The narrator lets himself down in a series of disappointments, finding himself in a state of constant need. At times, Bennett's voice here, and in the piano-driven "For a Day", reminds me of Squeeze's Glenn Tilbrook -- a very good thing.
"For a Day" is a lovely ballad tinged with funk -- but its real gift is the evocative phrases talking around love and relationships, relating it to colliding planets, flame, lights, and time itself.
In deference to Brian Wilson, Bennett updates "I Know There's an Answer" off of Pet Sounds. He infuses it with both energy and instrumentation, while also showing just how well the original well-crafted song holds up over time. This is a great cover, and really gives Bennett a chance to show his musical chops.
Things rock with a harder edge on "Torch Song", featuring an amusing lyric about how intentions can change over time: "I've been carrying this torch for you / You were the object of my desire / Now I'm carrying this torch because / I want to set you on fire". Danny Shaffer provides the guitar solo here.
"Vulnerable" explores the tenuous state of relationships in another grandly arranged piece (heavy on cellos) -- very reminiscent of David Mead -- and features assistance from Matt Walker, Jonny Polonsky, and Andrew Shullman.
"Pearls" is a delightful ballad that reminds us all to keep dreaming. It starts out with simple piano and vocals in almost a lounge setting (very McCartney-like), and then morphs into Beach-Boys-type harmonies. It's a great showcase for Bennett's keyboard skills, and shows he's got a sense of jazz and music theater to him as well.
The bonus track, a fun composition co-written with Brian Wilson ("No Wrong Notes In Heaven"), is a funky little number that recalls Paul Carrack. It features Wilson, Jeff Foskett, and Nick Walusko (as close to a modern Beach Boy as you're likely to find) on backing vocals, as well as a Scott Bennett harmonica solo.
Bennett's gifts are many, and he puts much of them on display here. His music arrives fully grown, and the arrangements are lush and impressive. The Dotted Line instantly puts Bennett into rarified company with such impressive do-it-yourself producers as Jon Brion and Jason Falkner -- with a distinctive voice that rivals that of David Mead's. Artful, tuneful and lush, this CD is a delight -- providing over 40 minutes of smart, pleasurable listening on a most auspicious debut.