Two Guys and a Whole Lot of Soul: Benyaro Set to Take the Stage at Tin Angel 11/28

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Photos by Anneke Schoneveld

Ben Musser and Bobby McCullough have been two busy dudes for the past few months. Since May, they’ve recorded an EP and gone on a cross county tour to promote it. The guys released The Cover EP, a compilation of six cover songs recorded in a cabin in Jackson Hole,Wyo., in July; however, these are not cover songs you’d expect to hear on the same record. I’m talking Moby, Sam Cooke, Procol Harum, Etta James, Blaze Foley, and The Coasters.

What gives this EP a more appealing twist is that these guys, just the two of them, play the whole thing acoustically in the style of rootsy, soul music. Imagine Moby’s “Why Does My Heart Feel So Bad” being played without the electronic equipment. It’s pretty interesting, right? They also go all the way back to the ’60s and take Procol Harum’s “A Whiter Shade of Pale,” an already iconic song, and make something new and original while paying respectful homage to the song’s roots. Furthermore, their cover of “Bring It On Home To Me” by Sam Cooke is absolutely fantastic; it stays true to the original but it also stays true to themselves. No matter what song they play on this EP, their own unique way of making music resonates in a way that allows you to see these songs in a whole new different light.

“I’ve had to think about this a lot, but I’m not sure exactly why we chose the songs that we chose to do,” Musser said. “There’s something about the singing on all of these that made us decide to record them; there’s so much soul. They are very strong songs originally and I think they lend themselves well to Bobby and I.”

“The Moby song was completely out of the box, but that’s something I’ve always enjoyed doing. We kind of deconstructed it in a way where it’s like, why can’t we make this a live performance song that’s not electric? I always like to push the envelope with music acoustically. The Cover EP is an interesting angle to what we usually do,” Musser said.

Musser knows a thing or two about changing things up. First and foremost, this guy can sing. I’ve seen these guys play over the past few years, and let me tell you, I’ve not heard someone who can wail like he can. You can liken his high falsettos to Axl Rose, it’s nuts. Once you add McCullough’s beautiful bass playing, deeper voice, and any other instrumentals they decide to include at the same time, you’ve got a room full of rich, organic, raw energy and sound. It still surprises me that it’s just the two of them playing together.

Benyaro has released two original recordings thus far: a self-titled debut in 2008 and a delightful record titled Good Day Better in 2010. The Cover EP is a bit different from their original material, but, as I said earlier, it remains true to their sound.

Musser and McCullough met in 2008, McCullough joined the project in 2009. Since then, the two have truly managed to develop a more unanimous, cohesive flow.  They both are passionate performers that dedicate themselves entirely to their craft. You can’t help but foot stomp, smile, and dance along with them. This is music you feel.

They began the tour in Colorado in July; they plan to tie things up Dec. 1 in New York City, where McCullough resides. Musser, who lives in Jackson Hole, will more than likely want make it home for the holidays. They’ll reboot their tour after the New Year.

“We’re going to keep promoting The Cover EP and keep it going for as many miles as possible; all the while that the promoting is going on, we’re introducing some new music,” Musser said. “We’ve introduced three new songs on this tour; hopefully after performing those we’ll be recording sometime next year. We hope to add three or four more. They’re funky, they continue to push the limits of Benyaro.”

The guys have performed in Philly throughout the years, but they’ve never performed at Tin Angel who’s celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. They’re pretty excited about it.

They’ll take the stage tomorrow night at Tin Angel with Mia Johnson and Alexis Cunnigham. Tickets are $10 and the show starts at 8pm. You can purchase tickets here.

For more information about Benyaro or to sample some of their songs, you can check out their Facebook page or go to their website at http://benyaro.com.

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