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Album review: Ben Flocks' soulful, heartfelt 'Battle Mountain'

Though based in Brooklyn, 24-year-old saxophonist Ben Flocks sounds miles removed from the bustle of the city on his self-released debut. The California-born Flocks performed with Joshua Redman and Dave Brubeck while coming up in the Bay Area scene, and here he looks to Americana and blues for a soulful album inspired by his home state.

Bookending the record with a steadily burning pace, the album's title track is its most irresistible. Atop a thick, head-bobbing groove, Flocks glides between Ari Chersky's guitar and Sam Reider's starlit Fender Rhodes. Chersky's ringing tone recalls the big sky sound of Bill Frisell, whose influence can also be heard in a dusky take on the folk classic "Shenandoah" and Leadbelly's "Silver City Bound," which is spiked by some rollicking bayou accordion from Reider. Heartfelt covers of "Tennessee Waltz" and a simmering "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right" further underscore the album's rustic core.

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Flocks isn't the sort of soloist looking to strip paint from the walls with technical firepower, but he doesn't need to either. The tack-sharp melodies at his fingertips mark him as an artist worth watching on both coasts.

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Ben Flocks

"Battle Mountain"

(Self-released)

Three stars

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