Ben Prestage comes from a family rooted in music. His great-grandmother toured with Al Jolson and in tent shows, while growing up he was exposed to the blues. He has busked in Memphis, honed his skills as a one-man band and been a finalist in the International Blues Challenge. He has a self-produced two-cd recording, Live at Pineapple Willy’s, which is in Panama City, Florida, that showcases his one-man band style, adding a small drum kit to his facile guitar.
Listening to his repertoire, one can appreciate the diversity of his repertoire that ranges from originals that are folk-styled, some acoustic rambles that are suggestive of the Grateful Dead and covers of Robert Johnson, Blind Boy Fuller, John Hurt, Furry Lewis, Bob Dylan, Muddy Waters and others. Prestage is capable of a hard driving rhythmic, finger-picking style as on the impressive folk original Confusion, although on his rendition of Step It Up and Go, he does race through the song too rapidly. John Hurt’s Candyman, is a lovely rendition followed up by a nice rendition of Furry Lewis’ Casey Jones, titled here Natural-Born Easeman.
His take on John Estes Someday Baby, has some nice slide guitar in the manner of Fred McDowell punctuated by his own foot drumming, while Stuggart, Arkansas, has a driving rhythm suggestive of Bukka White and Memphis, the last song on the first CD is a nice North Mississippi Hills styled performance, with another performance in this vein being his rendition of Goin’ Down South.
The Dead’s Friend of the Devil, is a nicely done number that showcases his adept fingerstyle guitar playing. another showcase for his playing is the folk instrumental Alleghany County, followed by a country gospel number (sounds like a classic Roy Acuff song), Lost Highway. Its quirky to hear his twangy guitar revive The Meters’ They All Asked For You, titled here, Audubon Blues. He does a nice take on Muddy Waters’ Can’t Be Satisfied, which shows his restrained slide being very effective.
I would not call him a great blues singer, but he does a credible job on the material here. Perhaps, he is moslty effective on the folk and country numbers and he is a fine guitarist. Even if a few numbers are clinkers, there is much to be enjoyed on this. His website is http://www.benprestagemusic.com, and there is a link to this and other CDs there.
This review originally appeared in the October15 - December 1, 2009 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 321) and I believe I received my review copy from the publication.