Ben Rector has remained relatively low key on the popular music spectrum up to this point. Originally from Tulsa, Okla., this pop/rock singer and songwriter has been slowly getting his foot in the door on the national music scene. He has toured nationally, including a show he performed Tuesday, April 5, at People’s Court in downtown Des Moines.
Last year, he toured with both Dave Barnes and radio-friendly piano rockers Five for Fighting. His style is very evocative of these artists, drawing from heavily produced songs ripe with repeating piano licks and lightly strummed acoustic guitars.
On Rector’s most recent release, “Into the Morning,” he shows some pretty decent chops. He is coming into his own as an arranger with tunes full of strings and the like. “Autumn” in particular breaks the mold on “Morning” with a feathery flute arrangement that compliments the wistful theme of the song’s melody.
Most of his tunes would sound right at home on any top-40 station; there are a lot of simple things going on. In that regard, however, the album is somewhat repetitive. At times it seems you could swap any song for another. The formula is basically the same, including chord progressions and rhythms that keep popping up from tunes like “Loving You is Easy” and “White Dress.” Just pop in a suspended chord on the guitar and play a little lick on the keyboard, gently breathe the verses and show off the pipes at the chorus. It’s pretty basic stuff, and for the most part, pretty generic.
It’s clear that Rector is looking for radio play. Songs like “The Beat” and “Out of my Head” are very similar in style to his tour mates Five for Fighting and pop keyboardist singer-songwriter Gavin DeGraw. When you listen to Rector sing, it’s somewhere between DeGraw and Michael Buble on “Haven’t Met You Yet,” with maybe a little bit of Chris Martin mixed in for good measure. Think Jason Mraz with a deeper tone of voice.
From all technical aspects, Rector’s voice is very well polished and groomed for his style of tune—a nice even vibrato and modulation, shifting seamlessly into head voice for those notes slightly out of range. It’s kind of what has come to be expected from this genre of pseudo blue-eyed soul. Furthermore, all the songs follow the basic formula of “boy loves girl.” There’s absolutely nothing wrong with a love song, but one can’t help but get a little sick of love when that’s all there is for 38 minutes.
Granted, there are a couple of songs that stand out on “Morning.” The album picks up a bit near the end with tunes like “Autumn” and “When I Get There”—a more lively, syncopated groove that sort of goes beyond the lovey-dovey music on the rest of the record. Actually, I did start tapping my foot during the final number on “Morning,” which is called “Dance with me Baby.” Most of the songs are pretty catchy, if that’s what floats your boat; they get stuck in your head. But so does Rebecca Black’s “Friday.”
Rector has a very good head start on his career. At 25, he’s already been pretty prolific with his releases, having already produced three albums. And with the proper management, there’s no reason that Rector won’t be on the radio in a couple of years. If you’re interested in learning more about Ben Rector or listening to his album for yourself, you can find him at myspace.com/benrector or at benrectormusic.com.