Ben Lemen is the latest member of Stonetrotter to come out with a solo release, on the heels of pianist and vocalist Courtney Dubois. It’s an extension of the band’s loosely defined Americana, but a simplified, rolling take that exudes sincerity and mellow rhythms.
Opening with a waltzing feel, Lemen’s vocals are the centerpiece of Almanac—a bold full-length debut that shimmers and cascades in delicate counterpoint to Lemen’s singing. The Barrie singer trades in some of that southern Ontario folk for a more western sound in “Breadwinner,” an instrumentally full number that leads into a rich folk sound as the album settles into itself.
In turn, it’s an almost eastern folk story on “75,” a beautiful duet of a love song that marks the glorious passing of time. It’s a stunning interlude at the album’s half, before Lemen kicks things up again for “Sunset.”
It’s only for a couple of songs before Almanac resolves itself once again—a back-and-forth as changeable as the seasons (or this summer’s weather) that thrives on Lemen’s constantly shifting tone. Each segment lasts only a couple of songs, but it’s just enough time to settle in and savour the latest direction before being drawn into something new.
The added strings on “Pressed Leaves” create another layer for Lemen’s slower songs as the album revisits and reworks its earliest sounds. “Kind Women” feels like a full-circle closer, and the kind of track to close up, or “clear out the bar” at the end of the night, but it’s the final “Dream Catcher #3” track that ultimately sends Almanac into the night—or at least into the winter as the gentle final notes signal another cycle’s end.
Top Tracks: “Morning Moon”; “75”
Rating: Proud Hoot (Really Good)