The Letter: Kristian Bent’s Campfire Stories is a travel in time and space
Posted on 28 February, 2017 by Team Wishberry
I have to confess that I only heard of you a few months ago. Confession because I wish I knew of your music before. And hell, since you are the one propagating ‘three chords and the truth’, and my lack of skill with three chords, leaves me only with the truth to offer.
When you announced Campfire Stories, I was excited. Come February, you released it. I must have heard it about 7-8 times in its entirety on train journeys in this urban jungle of Mumbai. Yet, the record took me to a place where there were mountains and cool breeze, small houses and empty streets, and an odd smile in the air. Odd, because we are not used to it.
Let me now give you my truth, without any chords, of what I felt listening to the 9 songs that you offered us on Campfire Stories.
I'd Trade My Love for Another Whiskey tells me of a man truly in love with his drink. You have got your priorities right with this one. Your easy-going voice makes clear the message to the lover and to the world. And damn, that harmonica makes it even better. This opening song took me to a small pub full of men who loved and lost, where they wanted to win at every cost, but couldn’t. And you preach to them what you have learned - whiskey trumps love.
The love for whiskey in the summers gave way to that feeling when the First Monsoon Rain falls. One feels lazy, and this song brings that feeling to life. Yet it remains incredibly energetic and optimistic. Just like the rains make us feel. There is truth in this song; the kind I could truly relate to. And hell, your voice is the home this song deserved a shelter in.
The sheer power of Children of a Lie is incredible. It is a heartbreak song complete with a violin accentuating the sombre feeling of losing again and again to lies. But the songs sings a resolution and that's where you win it. It isn’t an empty, sad song. It expresses sadness, and overcomes it with the nail of a promise.
Hello Rain is addressed to the rain, which seems to me a symbol for gloom here. It is about that stage where you realise what sadness/depression is doing to you. It is an appeal to the rain to go away, or at least let one hold on to the little remaining sunshine that is left. It is about making that choice to get out of the gloom and to pursue better times. The small electric guitar solo towards the end fits the sombre of the song like perfect denims. I love it.
Oh, the beautiful piano begins My Heart, My Motherland and in enters an upbeat strumming like that of a ballad. But this isn't a regular love ballad. This is a ballad about peace, a call for peace, rather. It asks everyone to open their minds. Like you have said over and over again that country music is ‘three chords and the truth’, you deliver the truth when you say ‘we're all people with untouched free will’. That is probably the truest thing I have heard in a while. And in these times of distress that the world is facing, that line should be treated as Bible and Quran and Gita.
Sometimes, it is the genius of a line here or a line there and how that line fits in a particular place. Roller Coaster has two such lines ‘don't you know, most of us don't even make it to the finish line?’ and ‘my left side brain is fighting with my right’. They're simple lines, and it isn't even literary genius; or is it? The lines are profound even if worded simply. My other favourite part of the song is the harmonica solo! It is very rare for an Indian artists to have a harmonica solo in a song and it sounds wonderful!
She is the longest song on the record. Yet, I didn't want it to end. It is beautiful. Even more so because the person spoken about sounds lovely. It is a heartfelt description and I felt it. By this song, what began as an attraction to your voice at the beginning of the album, becomes a full fledged love affair, and I don’t think anyone can get enough of it.
The following track, Song with No Name, is where you display a zen-like state you have already achieved. You ask the world to slow down and to listen to their hearts. Something the world is in dire need of. ‘I'm half the man I used to be, but I'm twice the man I used to know’ - damn, Kristian. This is incredible songwriting, and the melody of that chorus is very powerful.
Bus to Bangalore is a farewell song full of promises of the future. The song begins with a gentle sadness, borders on anger as well in between. But when it starts making promises of tomorrow, the farewell doesn't seem so harsh. Yet, it seems to give a sinking feeling, for the album ends here. And the journey so far with your music is over. But, hell, the promise of being there whenever needed makes so much sense in multiple ways. This is my new favourite farewell song.
Thank you, Kristian, for sharing this with us mere mortals. We needed this. We need your music, man. We need your voice. The world needs it. Keep doing what you do.