Benjamin Francis Leftwich is an intensely fragile act, on account of it not being one. To watch him perform is to witness an exercise in memory recall, as each song evokes a rich emotional reaction that permeates into the audience. After the tragic loss of his father caused him to recede from public attention, the release of his new album After the Rain in August of this year has been a welcome return to the fore. When comparing this new body of work with his 2011 debut album, Last Smoke Before the Snowstorm, there are some striking differences.
The album opens with the track ‘Tilikum’, in which Leftwich sets the reflective tone for the album, whispering in a voice augmented to an echo “wonder what you’re thinking, staring through the rain”. This vocal effect is used extensively throughout the album allowing his voice to retreat into hypnotic acoustics, a perfect metaphor perhaps for how his relationship with music has developed. During the performance, his eyes remain closed for the duration of the song, channelling the emotions and memories around which the song was conceived and written. The relentless and hypnotic nature of his finger patterns are therefore a necessity needed to drive the song on to completion—despite his desire to linger.
In an interview with Leftwich I asked him why it was he felt he had to continue writing, to which he responded: “Music writing to me is like an audio will, you always think… what if something happens to me tomorrow and I haven’t gotten out everything I wanted to say… my inspiration for writing music is to leave something behind after I die.”
The impression I was left with after spending some time with Leftwich and watching him perform was reflective of his words; his aspirations for music have never been driven by fame or wealth. Instead, it is a desire to share the harmonic and melodic world he has created for himself in the face of grief. The result of all this emotional depth is an album that can only be described as beautiful, yet devastating.