Ben Bedford “Valley of Stars”

Hopeful Sky Records, 2023

“A strange and adventurous romp through a magical landscape of quadrupedic musical characters”.

Artwork for Ben Bedford album 'Valley of Stars'Bedford’s last release here, ‘Portraits’ (2020), was a curated selection of songs from his first three albums with ones you want to play again, lines you wait for. Bedford’s words open windows for the listener to connect to people, a community or a place. ‘Portraits’ just reconfirmed he’s a damn fine storyteller and genuine folk singer. ‘Valley of Stars’ (Hopeful Sky Records), is his eagerly anticipated new material. In a recent interview with the Jacksonville Journal-Courier, Bedford calls ‘Valley of Stars’ his pandemic album. He also admits to writing it while struggling with depression.

The inspiration for this new project came from a book called, A General History of Quadrupeds (1790 London), which he found at his favourite bookshop, Prairie Archives. Bedford began writing pieces of music to accompany the book’s woodblock engravings: “During the pandemic, I’d wake each morning, feed Darwin the cat, make my coffee, sit down, and open the book to a random entry. That entry might be a weasel, or a mole, or a leopard, or a bear. And I’d write something based upon that entry, Maybe a song. Maybe an instrumental.” Eventually Bedford chose eleven pieces (six songs and five instrumentals) that he describes as a little folk tale of sorts with a Hare as the protagonist.

Musically, there is much to enjoy on this album. Bedford’s guitar playing is often outstanding. The bass playing from Ethan Jodziewicz is brilliant as are the contributions from Chas Williams on dobro (resonating on ‘Darkflight’ and ‘Hare on the Down’) and harmony vocals from Kari Foyd.

But, it’s not easy to connect to Bedford’s words beyond what they are. Bedford sings of hare’s place within a landscape and hare’s interaction with other creatures. In some cultures a hare symbolises new beginnings, and change. Bedford tells the Jacksonville Journal-Courier he is now no longer depressed. ‘Valley of Stars’ is just that: “a strange romp through a magical landscape of quadrupedic musical characters.”


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