- Associated Press - Thursday, April 21, 2016

Ben Watt, “Fever Dream” (Unmade Road/Caroline)

Ben Watt’s new chapter as singer-songwriter, an endeavor first launched before he and wife Tracey Thorn formed Everything But The Girl, offers a mature treatise on love and the passing of time. Everything But The Girl may be on a permanent hiatus, but “Fever Dream” is an effective remedy.

As on 2014’s “Hendra,” Watt relies on the exquisite lead guitar of ex-Suede Bernard Butler, who finds the right degree of assertiveness or, more often, restraint the songs need. Rex Horan on double bass and drummer Martin Ditcham are sturdy, vibrant anchors.

The refrain of “Winter’s Eve” soars like Gerry Rafferty’s “Whatever’s Written in Your Heart” and “Women’s Company” reveals how a father’s absence increased the females’ role in the life of the boy and, now, the man.

Other sonic touchstones include John Martyn, Neil Young, Mark Knopfler, Gino Vannelli and The Blue Nile - jazzy, bluesy, slightly overdriven, passionate and poetic.

“Between Two Fires” has a looping piano line, a trotting rhythm and one of the album’s keenest observations - “Everyone has limits from the start/Finding what they are is the tricky part.”

A nostalgic detour finds that “Brick And Wood” are all that’s left of the childhood home, “Imagine if we could/Shake off this stuff for good.” The present and the future would still remain, but would they make sense?

Watt has worn many hats - producer, author, DJ, record company founder - but these songs fit him like a glove.


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