Hit with a bad case of the Mondays when I sat down for this review, I’ll admit that all I wanted was something soothing I could wrap myself in and take a couple of hours to metaphorically escape. Luckily for me, Ben Cottrill’s debut EP delivered on both fronts as his voice soared and cooed through Red Lines’ four mellow tracks—accompanied deftly by guitar, piano and one whimsical trumpet.
The young artist has already drawn considerable recognition for his enthralling debut: nabbing the 2014 Wellesley Idol, named as one of seven winners of the RBC Emerging Artist Mentorship Program and pulling in a most-eclectic reward after winning a Why Unions Matter song contest.
That early praise doesn’t explain why Cottrill’s Bandcamp profile leans towards understatement, saying only that “Red Lines show a blend of serious and light-hearted songwriting that capture the wide variety of emotions that life entails.” It’s a descriptor that does no justice to the passion his voice finds as he sings “Though I’ve lost my muse, now I’ve got a friend/And she’s wonderful the same/Even if we start to drift apart/And forget each other’s names.”
Although there’s perhaps some truth to the claim as “After All This Time” skips into the brusque, peppery “I Won’t Be With You” as piano keys jauntily spring along, leaving no trace of the mournful trumpet solos that filled the speakers only moments before.
And while I’m hard pressed to understand how “Smoke Killed the Atmosphere of Love” despite Cottrill’s playful storytelling lyrics, the chorus—as he stretches and bounces his voice along in sharp contrast to the quick-spoken verses—proves to be a catchy one nonetheless. Getting by, and possibly getting me, with a handful of chords, a dizzying solo and the return of the spirited trumpet, the hazy scenario proves to be the winning earworm of the set.
As Red Lines eased away the final traces of the start of the week, it was closer “This Too Shall Pass” that may have offered up what I was hoping to find when I first sat down to write. Leaning heavily on Cottrill’s first instrument—the piano he learned to love to play—the final song of the collection harkens back to the slow 60s rock that inspired him to stick with the music. That feeling shows in every full note Cottrill sings, and, as I finally unbundle, I’m left with the hope that at least when it comes to his music, some things won’t pass.
Top Track: “This Too Shall Pass”
Rating: Proud Hoot (Really Good)