Music Reviews
4:06 pm
Wed February 26, 2014

The Spotlight Shines Bright On A Consummate Sideman's Debut

Originally published on Thu February 27, 2014 12:08 pm

If you ever form a band, you'll be very lucky to find a collaborator like Benmont Tench. You may know him as the consummate sideman, keyboardist and co-founder of Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers. Or as a renowned session musician who has played with Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones and dozens of other artists. However, he also shines bright when the spotlight falls on him. On his new solo debut, You Should Be So Lucky, all the qualities that make Tench the player everyone wants on their albums are represented in great measure.

Tench doesn't seem to relish leaping to center stage. You Should Be So Lucky is all about the songs, all but two of which are original compositions. Tench's voice is like a whisper that makes you want to lean in to hear more — but the melodies stick in your mind, and the canny groove and crescendos of the songs pull you right into his world.

The musician took a harmonious approach to choosing his collaborators, doling out session work to friends and colleagues whom he'd played with or admired, including Ringo Starr on tambourine.

From syncopated pop to garage-inflected rock to atmospheric instrumental excursions, Tench's album feels like pages torn from a journal that's recorded a remarkable life and an exceptional talent. These songs, written over the course of his entire professional career, show Tench as musician and storyteller, as the observer and the observed, as a sideman and, if not frontman, then certainly ringleader.

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Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

Benmont Tench has spent a lifetime playing next to rock superstars. For almost four decades, he's played keyboards for Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers. A renowned session musician, Tench has also recorded with Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones, Johnny Cash, Green Day and U2. Well, now Tench has released his first solo album. It's titled "You Should Be So Lucky." Meredith Ochs is taking a listen.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

BENMONT TENCH: (Singing) Today I took your picture down and carried it away...

MEREDITH OCHS, BYLINE: If you ever form a band, you should be so lucky to find a guy like Benmont Tench, a consummate sideman, his stylish, soulful playing always serves the song. But he also shines bright when the spotlight falls on him. All the qualities that make Tench the player everyone wants on their albums are on his own album in great measure.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

TENCH: (Singing) Today, I took your picture down. The coolly painted lips spoke without a sound, the eyes that followed me around daring me to try to stare them down.

OCHS: On this solos debut, Benmont Tench doesn't seem to relish leaping to center stage. It's all about the songs, all but two of which are original compositions. Tench's voice is like a whisper that makes you want to lean in to hear more, but the melodies stick in your mind, and the canny groove and crescendos of the songs like this one pull you right into his world.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

TENCH: (Singing) Veronica shivered and paused for fix, pulled her windbreaker tight, lit a fresh cigarette. She said nothing turns out like you're led to expect so you make what you can of the moment. And the winds blowing cold on the waterfront tonight and the wind is so close you can taste it. We got nothing but plenty of time on our hands so there are ways we can waste it, waste it.

OCHS: Benmont Tench took a harmonious approach in choosing musicians for his album, parsing out session work to friends and colleagues whom he'd played with or admired, including Ringo Starr on tambourine on this song.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

TENCH: (Singing) Blond girl in the blue dress and she's walking away. Have you ever come so close? Have you ever just touched down? Have you ever come so close that you could almost, you could almost...

OCHS: From syncopated pop to garage-inflected rock to atmospheric instrumental excursions, Benmont Tench's album feels like pages torn from a journal that's recorded a remarkable life and an exceptional talent. These songs, written over the course of his entire professional career, show Tench as musician and storyteller, as the observer and the observed, as a sideman and, if a not front man, then certainly ringleader.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

TENCH: (Singing) Wouldn't you be so lucky? Wish you should be so sweet.

BLOCK: And that's the title of the debut solo album from Benmont Tench, "You Should Be So Lucky." Our reviewer Meredith Ochs is a talk show host and DJ at Sirius XM Radio. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.