Two tracks into Ben Bostick’s “Hellfire,” it’s obvious that this is altogether rowdier than last year’s self-titled album. His gruff baritone’s toughened, electric guitar has replaced strummy acoustic, and a full band pounds out shorter, snappier working-class tales like the sardonic “It Ain’t Cheap Being Poor,” “The Other Side of Wrong” (“A man of my disposition should steer clear of alcohol / If I didn’t make bad decisions I wouldn’t make no decisions at all”) and “No Show Blues” (“I had a job in the Valley but I doubt I do anymore/ I took a day off and then I took four more”). The songs were composed during a yearlong residency at Downtown LA’s rustic Escondite bar, when Bostick was trying to connect with cynical audiences.
“The whole goal was to make music the crowd would get into. Sort of dark, fast songs seemed to be what turned them on,” he recalls with a laugh. “I just went with it.”
A literate, Southern-raised troubadour with a discerning eye for detail, Bostick says he wanted “Hellfire,” recorded in three days, to sound “almost like a punk record.” He created a Spotify playlist of artists who inspired the music’s spirit: Bo Diddley, the Hives, Jerry Lee Lewis, the Pogues, the Rolling Stones, Dwight Yoakam.
“We just recorded it real fast and raw and live in the studio,” he says. “I wanted it to have that energy that you get with performances at a live venue, with all the flaws and no overdubs, nothing prettied up. My goal was to make it with the raw power of country music [but like] Iggy Pop.”
Closing track “The Outsider,” with Luke Miller’s wicked organ and slamming drums from Perry Morris that Max Weinberg might appreciate, suggests future releases may “open up the sound palette” even more.
“I definitely don’t want to be somebody who does the same thing over and over again. I like on every record to do different stuff. When I make my next record,” Bostick warns, laughing, “don’t expect anything.”
By that time his daily life will have been significantly rearranged; he and partner Cari Nelson are expecting their first child. “Nothing has really changed so far, but I’m sure as soon as I see a little baby’s face and hear it cry, I’ll be writing all kinds of different songs,” he acknowledges.
Until then, he’s revisiting Raymond Chandler novels when he isn’t busking on Santa Monica Pier, playing out-of-town gigs at wineries and Bakersfield honky-tonks, and deejaying at Shoo Shoo Baby in Downtown LA.
“I’m definitely not putting my music on hold; we’re going to go from a two-income household to a one-income household for a while, so it’s sort of crunch time. Time for me to bring in some dough for diapers.”
Ben Bostick performs an hour-long solo set at 4 p.m. Sunday, July 8, at Adams Pack Station, Chantry Flat above Sierra Madre; free admission, but parking in the lot costs $10. Mark Nemetz and Mason Summit will also perform earlier sets. Info: (626) 447-7356. Benbostick.com, adamspackstation.com