with Faerie Tones
"Living in New York City is like tug of war. I'm constantly going back and forth deciding if I like it here," says indie-folk songwriter Ben Rabb, whose first EP, Until It's Gone, was written after an influential move to NYC. "These songs are about me trying to make sense of my experiences here. New York is a place with a lot of people, a lot of noise, a lot of ups and downs which makes it a great muse."
From "Inside Llewyn Davis" to the cover of The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan, folk music and New York City have enjoyed a long, entwined history. Rabb is the newest member of that story, a modern folksinger steeped in the fingerpicked sounds of the greats - James Taylor, Eric Andersen, Joni Mitchell - but more closely aligned with modern, indie-minded songwriters like David Gray. There's a gentle lilt to his voice and a swoon to his guitar work. Boosted by lightly layered arrangements courtesy of producer Mike Davidson (known for his engineering work on albums by Regina Spektor, St. Vincent and Jose Gonzalez), Until It's Gone sounds like the sort of easy-going album you'd play while drinking your coffee on Sunday morning. Just don't be surprised if you find yourself playing these six songs throughout the rest of the week, too.
Everything started in the Midwest, where Rabb spent his first 10 years. He grew up listening to folk music, learning about the older stuff from his parents and getting a more up-to-date education from his older sister, who passed along many of her own albums. After the family moved to Connecticut, Rabb picked up the guitar and began strumming his first chords as a teenager. By college, he was writing songs. A job offer took him to St. Louis after graduation. By the time he finally moved to New York in his mid-20s, Rabb had already spent a decade jumping from city to city, steadily collecting the stories that would eventually fill his own music.
"When I moved to New York," he remembers, "I started going to a songwriter's circle. I just got swallowed up in listening to a lot of new songwriters I really liked and respected. These people were making a contemporary sound by building on a traditional side of folk music. It was super Americana, but it also had this indie sound. It was a bit of an eye-opener for me."
Rabb quickly became a member of the local folk community. He hit the city's concert circuit, too, playing regular gigs at venues like the Living Room and Rockwood Music Hall. When it came time to record Until It's Gone, though, he headed north to Mike Davidson's studio in Boston, MA. There, Rabb recorded six songs about life and love, decorating the songs with piano, bass, acoustic guitar and brushed percussion.
Like many good writers, he looks to the outside world for influence on several songs. The most poignant of the bunch, "Take My Hand," was written after Rabb watched a breaking news update about the Syrian civil war. Until It's Gone is mostly a personal affair, though, performed with understated grace by a storyteller who brings us into his own world for 23 minutes.