Let it never be said I’m not timely with listening to music! In the case of the debut album from Edmonton artist Ben Hartt, I’m only a couple decades late!
Really, there’s no excuse. I knew this album existed. How could I not, with that face gracing the cover of both Times.10 and Outlooks Magazine? And yet, somehow, I wasn’t at the Citadel for that July 2001 CD release. And even though I had friends dancing at the August World Championships in Athletics, I also missed that performance. And the series of Buddys’ performances after? Missed those too – but that’s what happens when you’re a Roost boy, I suppose – you miss what’s happening at the other clubs.
So how did it come about that in 2023, I finally got around to listening to it? Well, it was those Times.10 and Outlooks covers that did it. Working with the Edmonton Queer History Project on digitizing our local queer history, I stumbled across the covers, and I was like “hmmm I should probably get around to checking this CD out.” After all, I’m all about supporting queer art and artists, and celebrating queer stories.Finding the album was a little harder. It came out pre-streaming, and it’s not like I could download it on Napster or Limewire. But luckily, I got loaned a copy (thanks Kris!), and then raced down to the club to play it.
And loved it!
Right from the first notes of “Take Me Back”, I was transported back to being a twenty-year-old gay, running around Edmonton from one romantic complication to another. And really, wasn’t everything complicated at twenty? Certainly by the time I got to “Why Don’t We Cheat On Each Other?”, I was wholly immersed back in 2001 me, with lyrics like “Maybe we’re sticking together because we’re afraid to do better” really summarizing the whole period of my life. “Settling for loneliness or settling for you” from “pleuvior, pleurer” definitely set the mood for a down tempo visit to young gay angst, and a definite change from the disco inspired tracks that feel ahead of their time. ABBA-inspired dance could fit in on any 2023 playlist, and as Ben’s MapleMusic bio indicated, Voulez-Vouz nurtured him as a music lover and creator.
As of right now, I’m only managed to get my hands on that first album, but there’s a second, and you best believe I am tracking it down as we speak. I also have it on very good authority that nineteen years after his last album, he’s working on another. And I can’t wait to see what two decades has done both in turns of the evolution of his talent and how those two decades inform the lyrics of his new songs.
Will update when I get that second album <3