Review: Benjamin Tod Journeys into the Realms of Harrowing Happenstance

Benjamin Tod/Songs I Swore I’d Never Sing/Anti-Corp Music
Three out of five stars

Benjamin Tod, the longtime leader of the Lost Dog Street Band,  has plenty of angst to get off his chest. Armed with only a mournful vocal and a solitary guitar, he bares his soul and deals with the most despairing and distressing soul-aching scenarios imaginable—a struggle with addiction, the fight to stay sober, reconciling a relationship, and even the lingering sadness of having to put down his dog and deal with the death of a friend. That palatable sense of loss doesn’t let up, making the tellingly titled Songs I Swore I’d Never Sing as ominous as the name suggests. 

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As harrowing as these narratives are, it’s the quiet resolve that lingers throughout which gives this album resilience. The sentiment that resonates through songs like “Not Coming Home,” “Talkeetna  Tonight,” “Still Search for You,” and “Dark Before the Dawn” is genuinely affecting and absolutely apparent. The pain is never far from the surface, and the honesty and intimacy are unflinching in each and every encounter. That may make some of these songs difficult to listen to, but one still has to credit Tod with coming to grips with the specters that haunt him and his determination to persist and persevere.

Ultimately, Songs I Swore I’d Never Sing could be considered a travelogue of sorts, one that details Tod’s journey through the challenges that beset him at seminal times in his life. A bare-boned set of stark confessions, its unblemished atmosphere is reflected in the fact that it was recorded in just six hours, instilling an urgency that’s both emotional and enduring. Ultimately, Tod deserves credit for laying everything on the line.

Songs I Swore I’d Never Sing isn’t an easy listen, and in some cases, it may even have a chilling effect on one’s psyche and sensibility. However, if an artist’s main mission is to move people, sometimes even to tears, then Tod’s gambit has certainly succeeded.

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