Many Lexingtonions have encountered a bazaar and magical phenomenon: Imagine it is around midnight and you are wandering the streets of downtown Lexington. You hear a small band playing in a dimly lit bar. You are pulled in by the pulsing bass and driving rhythm, or perhaps you are enticed by the melody floating effortlessly overhead. When you get inside your eyes refuse to believe what they see: a lone man with long red hair sitting onstage, head back, eyes closed, playing it all.
The artist, Ben Lacy, has been inspiring local music lovers for years and has even received national attention for his unique guitar style. But the reviews printed about Ben all seem to overlook one, simple fact, something that seems apparent to many casual listeners the first time they hear him: He plays the whole song.
Musicians’ pushing the boundaries of their instruments is nothing new, it is one of the forces music relies on, however, a single musician who aspires to reproduce the recorded songs of a whole band through a single instrument is an idea that is as new as it is extraordinary.
In the last few years a number of musicians have sought to introduce a taste of the studio in their live work through a technique known as looping. This is, essentially, using an effects pedal to record and play back an audio track that can then be played along with onstage, giving the impression of more than one musician. Rather than layering one technically traditional part on top of another, Ben’s method of playing every note and every beat in real time demands precise virtuosity and careful abstraction. This approach is decidedly less technical than the current trend, and, in many ways, it is the polar opposite. It is more accurate to think of Ben’s performance as an eloquent, precise, yet minimal, full-composition rather than simply ‘fancy’ guitar playing.
The true genius of Ben’s compositions lie in the cohesion of his arrangements; his knowledge of what must be played and what can be left out without sacrificing the song. There may be a handful of musicians who could, with a great deal of effort, learn to play Ben’s arrangements, but no one has so clearly and consistently set out to express and explore the borders of popular songs on a single instrument and, by doing so, completely transformed the expectations of an audience.
For more information about Ben Lacy, visit him online at http://www.benlacy.com/
For a taste of his music head to his MySpace page http://www.myspace.com/lacyben and to both hear and see him in action check out this video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ulC9TUqIjtg.
And the next time you sit down to listen to someone play, if you’re bold enough, ask the performer: Is that the whole song?