Ben Kessler Soars at Summer Debut at Tin Angel

Most of Ben Kessler‘s press has been concerned with his age. At just fifteen — soon to be sixteen — Kessler is creating beautiful, complicated, often subtle music that is far beyond his years. And while his youth is impressive, the plain fact is that Kessler is a frighteningly talented musician, regardless of his age. His set Thursday night at Tin Angel proved his skill and more; he was entertaining and wholly impressive.

Kessler kicked off his set with a host of original songs, each as well-crafted as the last. With the fortunate combination of songwriting talent, a good voice, and stunning guitar skills, Kessler’s music is the whole package. Early on in his set, Kessler dipped into hallowed territory by pulling out a cover of Leonard Cohen‘s “Hallelujah“, but he took his duty seriously. A general cover of “Hallelujah” takes the same chords and the same pick pattern as the original and maybe shakes up the vocals a little. Kessler brought an entirely new structure to the song, generally sticking to the chords but varying the presentation. In truth, he only kept to the basics in the chorus, and the new structure of the song was both refreshing and exciting.

His original work is every bit as exciting as his covers, and he applies the same creative energy to both. Covers were just different enough to sound fresh and originals were just familiar enough to be inviting. Among his originals, one of the best was “I Am Here”, a soft, climbing song with the best lyric quality of his set. He draws the listener in with complex intros that lead into understated chord progressions and lyrical power.

His work has all the elements of a traditional singer/songwriter (there are many similarities between his work and John Mayer‘s), but where Kessler has those traditions beat is in his skills as a guitarist. His ability to pull out complex melodies like they’re simple chords is what sets him apart. During his entire set at Tin Angel, his fingers flew up and down the guitar, especially during his cover of John Butler‘s “Ocean“. The instrumental track was stunning, captivating, and intimidating in Kessler’s hands.

The allure of Kessler’s work points toward a promising career. He has the skills to produce music that’s both familiar and entirely new at the same time while holding on to a certain amount of subtlety that brings maturity and gravitas to his work.

His Tin Angel show marks the start of his summer tour. Check out his website for dates.

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  1. Pingback: CD Release Show Anouncement! | Ben Kessler

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