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Benjamin Folke Thomas Benjamin Folke Thomas
Album: Copenhagen
Label: Louvaio
Tracks: 10

Born in Gothenburg but now mostly based in London, the baritone-voiced Thomas has variously been likened to Springsteen, Warren Zevon and Dylan, but perhaps the most obvious comparison to be made here, on his third album, is Johnny Cash.

Again backed by guitarist Henning Sernhede and the rhythm section of Johannes Mattssons and Jonas Abrahamsson, who doubles on keys as well as drums, it opens with the rolling rhythms of the self-deprecating 'Good Enough Me' where he sings "I've always struggled with a solid case of narcissism", and how, having lost his 'halo of pride' and realising he's not the centre of the world, resolves to do better "write an ode to my Grandmother, tell my Mother more often that I love her" and "find the true nature of inner peace".

The songs, as ever, predominantly autobiographically rooted, such self-searching is typical of the album, another case in point being 'Good Friend Again', acoustic strum and organ accompanying a lyric about self-accusation, self-doubt, remorse and resolution as he sings about starting drinking again "to cope with these avenues of shame, when I'm sober my body feels so frail."

It's not all so downbeat. Sure, on the more electric 'Safe and Secure' with its slightly distorted guitar, he's talking about a former lover and wishing she'd think of him when she's with her new man, but, while he may castigate himself for being jealous and a "self-proclaimed martyr", there's no bitterness here, rather a determination to turn himself around ("I want to break these chains, rebuild some bridges"). Then there's 'So Gold', slow waltzing on guitar, tambourine and bass drum, and the shuffling, calypso-tinged 'Copenhagen 30/6', both of which find salvation through a good, supportive woman, a rock in the former, gold in the dirt on the latter. Or there's the jangling guitars of a Springsteenesque 'Rhythm and Blues' where "I can read my life in the palm of your hand", although it is possible to read darker meanings into this one.

Nor is it all about him. The spare, near six-minute 'Finn' details memories of a doctor from Palestine he worked with on store meat department, of his grandfather, a communist veteran who fought against the Nazis, and of his older sister who now lives with her family in India, the message being that time is short, so spend it with those you love. Having namechecked Kurt Cobain in that, 'Hold On' cranks up a shuffling drum beat for a JJ Cale-like groove that adds Elvis, Michael Jackson and Jerry Lee Lewis to the list, though its references to paedophilia and the line about "whatever we decide to do we got some heavenly right" set against the chorus refrain of "old men hold on a little bit longer" makes this one of the more enigmatic lyrics. The electronic synth drums touches there are even more evident on 'Bad News', a song that touches on the ephemeral nature of fame ("one day you're an idol, the next you're an outcast"), the line "Heaven shall fall down upon the unrepentant regency" suggesting that, while he may not have found God, he did pay attention to those childhood evangelical Christian Bible classes.

The album closes in simple stripped down fingerpicking style, returning to the Cash influences with the country rippling 'Gimme A Smile', co-penned by Dave Burn and leaving on an upbeat note that, while it may be about the hung over morning after a one night stand with the girl from the bar, has no regrets, just to "give me a kiss and say I'll see you around" with "one more smile before you go." To quote Danny Kaye, "let us clink and drink one down to wonderful, wonderful Copenhagen."

Mike Davies