bob bennet joyA classic artist returns with a classic album. Bob Bennett fans can rejoice for Joy Deep As Sorrow!

Joy Deep As Sorrow
Bob Bennett
Whitewater Productions
11 tracks 45:50

In a perfect world, any time the names James Taylor and Joni Mitchell would be mentioned, the name Bob Bennett wouldn't be far behind. Bennett is that kind of unique creative soul – a creator of music that is indelibly his own, bearing the mark of his particular sense of melody, the musical fingerprint of his solid guitar playing, the wisdom and poetry of his words and – perhaps most of all – the warm and inviting tone of his voice. Starting his musical journey at the end of the seventies, through the eighties, and less-prolific in the following decades (when the music business got more interested in demographics than artistic integrity), Bennett re-emerges in the digital age as if he's never been away, sounding better than ever.

Last year Bob gave us the uniquely nostalgic Jesus Music Again, a re-interpreting of classic songs from the prime days of the Jesus Movement. As fine as that album was, it seemed to be more of a novelty than a new artistic statement. Not so with Joy Deep As Sorrow – as fine an album as any Bennett has ever created, and one that has not a moment of nostalgia, padding, or record-rust in its nearly forty-six minutes.

Bob Bennett, like Sara Groves and Michael Kelly Blanchard (to name a pair of contemporaries), weaves with each song a tapestry of our deep longings and momentary joys. Of course, not all is serious and lofty on Joy Deep As Sorrow. The title track is an appropriately lighthearted admission:

"I want good to come after me
Half as relentlessly as trouble does... like a curse
I want health to protect me
Invade me and infect me like disease does ...but in reverse

Hey, we relate, Bob – we relate.

Bennett offers a balanced mix of the serious and the comic – which is, after all, pretty much what we're given to work with in this life. In "Faithful," Bob sings,

"Empty vigil in ink black night
I awaken to the same refrain
I make no claim to second sight
just the blind following the blind again

 and balances it with "Playing the Part of Me" - a jazzy, pseudo-narcissistic tap-dance of a song with winking lyrics like,

"...after all these years
To be honored by my peers
For my modest tour-de-force
It's a total surprise, of course

For good measure, there's even a Bob Bennett blues in the form of "Panhandled at the Western Wall," the true story of some shady 'fund-raising' in the Holy Land.

Of course, there's track after track of melodic, signature Bob Bennett music on Joy Deep As Sorrow. "You Went Ahead" is a moving tribute to Jesus Music icons Roby Duke and Tom Howard and the recently deceased Phil Kristianson:

"You went ahead
It does not seem fair
I'm still here ...and you are there
I'm one of many in this long line
Of those who love you and are left behind
Sadness, for now, is all I can see
So I cry for you, but, my good friend, it's mostly for me.

The album's penultimate track, "God My Shepherd," is essentially Psalm 23 beautifully paraphrased and set to music.

And what music! Produced by Roy Salmond, who also played a multitude of instruments (and all with some very tasty chops), the sound is rich and vibrant, with the sonic feel of some of the early Phil Keaggy recordings. Bill (Billy) Batstone played upright and fretless bass, adding depth and richness to the proceedings, while Janaya Salmond played tasteful drums. Of course, Bennett played guitars, sang, and wrote all the songs but two - one which was co-written and the other a stunning cover of Steve Bell's "Birth of a Song."

Even the packaging – with a booklet (yay!) - has class.
This is music for grown-ups. It's about life. Totally recommended.

-Bert Saraco


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