Josh Ritter’s debut Hello, Starling showed flashes of brilliance that hinted at the incredible things to come. Seattle singer/songwriter Ben Fisher‘s Heavy Boots and Underwoods gives off a similar vibe. This connection is partly invoked by Fisher’s choice of sounds, as he writes in organ sounds similar to those used on Starling standout “Kathleen” in opener “Thunderbird” and “Stars Like Bears.” Another aspect is Fisher’s confident vocal delivery: clear and bright, his inflection-laden tenor carries the album.
Written and recorded with deep attention to detail, the songs on Heavy Boots and Underwoods are uniformly beautiful. That beauty manifests in many ways: easygoing charm (“Cast Your Line”), dramatic storytelling (“El Llano Estacado”), off-the-cuff folk strum (the title track) and more. Fisher is adept at guitar and banjo, bringing a great deal of variation to song moods with his multi-tasking instrumental skills.
As Starling sets a foundation for Ritter, so does Heavy Boots and Underwoods for Fisher. It’s clear to me that Fisher has a unique songwriting skill that he is only beginning to tap: subsequent albums should help him break away from his Ritter comparisons and into his own voice. The tightly-reined intensity that runs through “El Llano Estacado” and “Bed of Ash” points to a future lyrical and/or musical ferocity that could put Fisher on some big stages.
Heavy Boots and Underwoods is a rare treat: a singer/songwriter’s debut that puts a foot toward a unique future while tipping a hat to its forebears. Highly recommended.