Listen to Ben Trickey’s “Alabama” at Exclaim!
Listen to “Shipwrecked in the ’80s” at No Depression
Listen to “Guiding Star” at Verbicide
Stream tracks from the new 7-inch below
RIYL: John Prine, Jason Molina, Bright Eyes, Jay Farrar, Mountain Goats, James McMurtr
June 9, 2015 — Ben Trickey released his “Alabama” 7-inch today, the final in a series of 45-rpm vinyl recordings that has been compiled and released as limited-edition set The Long Box, also out today.
Ben Trickey is a layman’s existentialist, a dive-bar philosopher both driven and paralyzed by a deep fascination with life’s greatest question. In his songs, he perpetually contemplates his purpose, and with a wounded, wary croon, his dark country-folk struggles for hope in the face of desolation.
Mined from personal experience, Trickey’s writing finds metaphors in the grime and grim sentiments of the Dirty South and his hometown of Atlanta. He’s battled his insecurities playing hushed sets opening for luminaries such as Jason Isbell, Phosphorescent, David Dondero, Richard Buckner and Damien Jurado, in the process earning accolades from outlets like Creative Loafing, Captain’s Dead & PopMatters.
Trickey’s latest offering is the fourth and final installment in a 7-inch series he recorded over the past four years, all of which will soon be compiled into a hand-made limited edition box set called The Long Box (out June 9th). The A-side of the new 7-inch, “Alabama,” is quietly devastating, its stark rural imagery contrasted with a nostalgia for unburdened youth. The only respite in the carefully paced accordion-and-violin-accompanied number is the realization that “we’re in this together, and together we’re dreaming.”
Stream tracks from the new 7-inch below
The second track is a commiserative homage to Kris Kristofferson’s “Shipwrecked in the ’80s.” Trickey says he couldn’t have written “Alabama” without having heard it. “Suddenly you start asking yourself the hard questions,” he says. “You’re alone. So then you’re sort of losing your mind, and Kristofferson relates that to this bible you clung to your whole life, but you find out when you get older that science is proving it’s not true—for me, it’s about finding your way when you’re completely lost.”
Book-ending the 7-inch is “Guiding Star,” which finds Trickey’s quivering vocals at a heart-wrenching pinnacle. Clocking in at about a minute-and-a-half, it’s a brief but impactful indulgence in loneliness.
“It’s literally something I wrote on a napkin in a bar,” Trickey says. “It’s about not trusting yourself because you’re attracted to people you don’t know. Like when you’re in a bar and you look across and see someone—your brain goes places. If you’re really lonely, you’re like, ‘I could have a relationship, maybe I should talk to her,’ but the other side is she could be a terrible human being, and you’re just infatuated because you’re lonely.”
While Trickey’s barren folk landscapes and bleak melodies may come off on the surface as wrist-cutters, he doesn’t see it that way. “I think that all my songs are written from the perspective of loving life and then trying to make sense of the tragedy of it,” he says. “I think they’re all written from the viewpoint of looking up versus falling into it. Hopefully.”
It’s been nearly 15 years since Trickey transitioned from abstract video art and noise experimentation into the palpable, relatable gritty folk and rough-hewn Americana that now reads as second nature. He began dabbling in alt-country and the like during graduate school in western New York, then traveled back to Atlanta, where he’d lived since the late ’90s. When he returned in the early 2000s, Trickey regularly held court at a weekly brunch service at The Earl, a revered Atlanta rock club, before moving on to bigger bills. While locals nursed hangovers, gathering mistakes and regrets as they came to memory, Trickey honed his newfound desire to vindicate perseverance through song.
The forthcoming box-set project began as a way for Trickey to overcome a bout of writer’s block, a rut compounded by divorce and the subsequent six months of heartbroken couch-hopping. The intention was for each to include a new composition, an old one and a cover, all of them self-recorded at home with just a few background players here and there. But before its completion he compiled his fifth full-length, 2013’s Rising Waters—a country-western tug-of-war between the deeply somber and the gut instinct to survive. Atlanta alt-weekly Creative Loafing dubbed it Trickey’s “most compelling album yet,” adding that “at times Rising Waters feels like an apology, but the mordant lyrics and Trickey’s forlorn poetry fall perfectly in lock step with the album’s sparse arrangements.”
A regional tour and a series of one-off appearances in New York are on the horizon for Trickey, as well as recording sessions this spring as his next full length begins taking shape. The Long Box will be available through Trickey’s label Anthem Breath and will include bonus tracks and a booklet of lyrics along with the story of the box set, each trio in casings handmade by Trickey and emblazoned with comic-book-inspired work by artist Jordan Gum. It’s a collectible item, and not solely in the physical sense—every Ben Trickey song, with its subdued orchestration and immensely affecting tenor, is a showpiece of emotion.
“Honest record, real shit.” – Marc Maron, via Twitter
“About as dark as country songs get. … He taps into all those lonesome cowboys—Prine, Van Zandt, even contemporaries like Jason Molina.” – PopMatters
“A brief but impactful indulgence in loneliness … Trickey’s quivering vocals are at a heart-wrenching pinnacle.” – Verbicide
“‘Alabama’ is another notch on the bow of Trickeys’s archery set of sad songs, each arrowhead meticulously sharpened to wound your very heart and soul with sheer precision.” – No Depression
“The plight of the stark, lo-fi troubadour is not an easy one. In a post-Bright Eyes, post-Mountain Goats world, indie rock has seen just about every riveting trick one lonely man with a guitar can get away with—as well as the ones he can’t. But when Ben Trickey strums and sings about the dark, emotional side of life as an imperfect man, you believe him… a sentimental apocalypse.” – Creative Loafing
“Conjures up visions of backwoods or sidewalk preachers, judging me for whatever sins I have probably committed… it may come across as kind of dire and dark, but in the end there’s always an air of hope and possible salvation.” – Captains Dead
“Gripping and beautiful. There’s a twangy quaver in Trickey’s voice that gives his songs both added vulnerability and power.” – Stomp and Stammer
“Whether the subject matter is the end of the world or the end of a relationship, Trickey’s vibrato sounds like the fate of the Earth rests on whichever note he’ll land on. But the grit in his words and singing tell us everything is going to end up ok.” – Adobe and Teardrops
“Dark and melancholy, but earnest… and without being depressing.” – The Blue Indian
“Takes things back to a dustbowl-era mentality—a time when folk singers were few and far between; a time when folk singers weren’t just good, they were damn near perfect.” – Nine Bullets