1. The Pilot and the Flying Machine: Part 1
2. Letters from the Earth
3. High and Low
4. The Fox
5. The Voyage of John and Emma
6. Blood on Missouri
9. The Pilot and the Flying Machine: Part 2
11. Long Blue Hills
“Certainly one of the best young singer-songwriters working today.” -Rob Adams, The Herald-Scotland
With the release of his fourth album, The Pilot and the Flying Machine , Ben Bedford takes the listener on a philosophical, poetic, and powerful sonic flight. With his songwriting as erudite as ever and his guitar playing further honed and refined, Bedford enters decidedly new territory in terms of themes, sound, and arrangement with this album. While his tried and true singer songwriter influences, such as Townes Van Zandt and Patty Griffin, are here, this album owes as much in inspiration to the piano playing of Vladimir Horowitz and Thelonious Monk, the theatrical songwriting of Kate Bush, and the open sounding jazz and classical recordings of the late 1950s. The title tracks (there are two) were inspired by the sculptures of the internationally known Springfield, Illinois artist Michael A. Dunbar. Dunbar’s work, often reminiscent of navigational instruments in their beauty, grace and functional appearance, was the catalyst for the flight/journey motif that runs throughout the songs. The title tracks both touch upon doubt, regret, and hope and encapsulate the implicit and intimate conversation between a pilot and his/her craft. In manyways this is Bedford’s most personal album and in a figurative sense, he is the pilot in the flying machine, maneuvering, swooping, and plummeting through his experience.
Other songs include, “Blood on Missouri” which recounts the events surrounding Ferguson, Missouri in 2014 and the journey the United States has taken in the past two years of reawakening to the reality that the civil rights movement of the 1960s is incomplete. “Letters from the Earth” is a rolling traversal across the Nebraska, Iowa and Illinois plains with themes of worry, reminiscence, and incredulity . Even the fast paced instrumental “Orrery” insinuates the flight/journey theme, as an orrery is a 3 dimensional moving model of the solar system. Rather than record in a studio, Bedford opted for the open sound and acoustics of Douglas Avenue United Methodist Church in Springfield, Illinois during January 4 – 8. He assembled a group of people who could help him achieve his musical vision and the live and open sounding recording that he hoped to capture. Nashville engineer David Sinko traveled to record the project (Punch Brothers, YoYo Ma and Edgar Meyer). Diederik van Wassenaer, who has toured with Bedford for the last two years, added his haunting violin and viola. Ethan Jodziewicz, who studied under Edgar Meyer, was tapped to play double bass. Kari Bedford, Ben’s wife, adds her signature harmony vocals. The combination of musicians and engineering within that acoustic space has created a unique folk/americana album with overtones of classical chamber music.
A true son of the heartland, Bedford dips into the deep inkwell of classic American literature and writes with the ‘old soul’ quality of his literary idols, such as John Steinbeck and Toni Morrison.
In July of 2010, Bedford was named one of the “50 Most Significant Folk Singer-songwriters of the past 50years” by Rich Warren of WFMT-Chicago.