Album | Ben Calvert & The Swifts – Festive Road

This debut offering from Ben Calvert and crew is an accomplished collection of easy-listening tracks that is a worthy addition to any folk enthusiast’s library. Short opener ‘Paperbox’ is a stripped-back, quality acoustic number, serving as a perfect ‘one-man-and-his-guitar’ introduction. The lack of percussion in this track and the one that follows is a bold move, but one that merely serves to highlight Calvert’s confident yet unpretentious vocals. His gentle, lilting lyrics stir up echoes of Belle and Sebastian, and greats such as Nick Drake. The lo-fi production adds a charming intimacy, with each song is allowed to build its own natural momentum.

By contrast, ‘Everybody Loves Lucy’ is playful and upbeat. The percussion kicks in with a drunken swing, the lyrics are cheeky and it rolls along with a comic, circus vibe, while simultaneously holding on to Calvert’s no-nonsense acoustic approach. ‘Popstar Sits At Home Crying Eating Hob-Nobs’, while fun in title, is a gradual builder, that evolves into a deeper, emotional outpouring over the course of the final thirty seconds.

There are more stand-out tracks to come. ‘Valpolicella Girl’ has a chilled, summery feel and the introduction of harmonica adds some blues to proceedings to good effect. ‘Stromboli Dixon’ takes us back to the circus, in a haunting,
funereal manner, with a sorrowful violin part.

However, arguably the strongest track is the closer, ‘Landing On My Feet Again’. It has the most energy of any song on the album. Thumping drums, jangling guitars, handclaps and keys all combine to leave you on a high. It is a great
celebratory end to a great, personal creation. It sounds like plenty of hard work has gone into crafting Festive Road, and all the plaudits and credit that the album receives will be warmly deserved.

Words: Simon Morgan