By Ron Powers
I’m delighted to spread the word about a great new song called “Richest Man”. It’s my favorite single off Brendan Benson’s recently released LP, and I’d go so far as to say it’s the best work we’ve seen from the Michigan born songwriter since he first entered the music scene back in 1995. The hip and stylish rock-n-roll attitude of The Velvet Underground comes to mind while listening to this bright and lively new track. And the ultra-positive and uplifting lyrics about family and fatherhood reveal “Richest Man” not just to be another feel-good hit but a happy reminder of what really matters in life.
The most interesting and inspiring thing about this song is the turning point it marks in Benson’s life. This is an artist who has felt overlooked and left behind by the music industry at times. His life has had its share of thorns. But “Richest Man” reveals the evolution of a heart opened and filled with love. Benson sings with unabashed adoration for his kids and wife in a way that’s so honest it’s cool.
“Richest Man” has a big rock-n-roll sound with a standard two guitars, bass, and drums setup along with a big full sounding brass section and piano. The sound of this song is like a sunny day. Yes, of course we’ve seen one before, but we’re always thrilled to see another. That sunshiny feeling was almost entirely brought to life by Benson’s hand alone. He self-recorded and produced “Richest Man” along with the rest of his outstanding new LP at his studio in Nashville. Benson also performed nearly all the instruments that appear on the new work.
“Richest Man” begins with a bang that is reminiscent of a Phil Spector produced Ramones album. After the brief intro, the first verse fires up. That’s when you feel just how good this song is. The instant the vocals hit your ears you know you’re going to love this track. The production on Benson’s voice mixed with the big rhythm & blues/rock-n-roll sound pulls you in like the buzz of a cocktail and cool summer breeze. After four simple and satisfying lines of verse the refrain is introduced. This section features a two-part harmony nested nicely under the top line and is yet another testament to Brendan Benson’s huge talent as a songwriter and producer. It’s remarkable to hear this kind of quality come from a single guy writing, recording, and performing everything you’re hearing. The amount of vision required to pull something like this off is something few understand.
In a statement about the song, Benson said, “I never thought I would write a song about domesticity!” He went on to say, “When I wrote the words, I thought I would eventually change them to something a little less literal and ‘family man,’ but in the end, I decided I liked the lyrics for those two reasons.”
In the wake of COVID-19, Benson has postponed his tour, but you can still catch live performances through his Instagram where he is posting livestreams of tracks from his new record “Dear Life”. He has titled the series “Boy in the Bubble” and you can catch performances on his IGTV and Instagram Stories.