First Impression : Ben Robertson"..prodigious young Britfolk guitarist" - fRoots
Ben Robertson is in his early twenties - early days in the career of a folksinger - but his 2017 EP, North, and live performances (including recent support slots for Lucy Ward and Gilmore & Roberts) confirm he is almost fully formed as a musician. Born in Bangor and now based near Mold, he also spent a good deal of time in Manchester folk clubs whilst living in that city.
Live, Robertson's set is a mix of tunes and standards. The latter tend to favour the work of singers-songwriters rather than longer-honed folksongs, but serve to define Robertson's ability; Song for Ireland, written by Phil & June Colclough, palpably learnt from Dick Gaughan's elegiac Handful of Earth version, plus Richard Thompson's Beeswing and 1952 Vincent Black Lightning are faithfully rendered on stage, but also given sufficent personal colour to make them distinctive.
To underline that flair when interpreting someone else's songwriting, the North EP closes with an impressive reading of Led Zeppelin's Going to California.
The tunes are a wider-ranging mix, from Scottish, European and Scandinavian traditions - recorded or real-time they are somewhere far north of proficient.
Robertson can inhabit a song; he has a melodious voice able to carry a story emotionally and an expressive fingerpicking guitar style that illuminates every moment he plays. Between the music and applause there are flashes of keen wit. Not a bad start. As he closed his recent set at Bangor's Blue Sky Café, someone sat near me said, "Did you hear the stillness in the room as he played?"
The hush was impossible to miss, and is a sound that surely marks the beginning of something remarkable.
Ben Robertson's future live dates can be found here
BEN ROBERTSON I North EP