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Benny Bleu's new album takes solace in simple folk tunes 

click to enlarge Benny Bleu and his band The Blue Lemons will play Bop Shop Records on July 1 in support of the album "Swatting the Flies." - PHOTO BY SARAH GORRY
  • PHOTO BY SARAH GORRY
  • Benny Bleu and his band The Blue Lemons will play Bop Shop Records on July 1 in support of the album "Swatting the Flies."
Finger Lakes musician Ben Haravitch is a fixture among the region’s folk and bluegrass bands — The Crawdiddies’ banjo player; bassist for The Brothers Blue, and as a member of the newly formed Temple Cabin Band with Aaron Lipp and Max Flansburg.

But as solo artist Benny Bleu, Haravitch deserves no less attention. His jack-of-all-trades reputation follows him on his new full-length album “Swatting the Flies,” for which he sang and played fiddle, guitar, banjo, and harmonica. The 10-song collection (released on June 18) also continues the quaint evocations of old-time folk music from its predecessor, 2019’s “Warm Prickly,” but there is a key difference.

”Swatting the Flies” sounds decidedly less playful. It’s as if Haravitch is more soul-weary and introspective — no surprise given the events of the past two years. The album’s liner notes provide another clue about Benny Bleu’s suspected fatigue:

“Our minds are turning to mush and our view of the stars is fading,” he writes. “The distractions we get peddled are the flies we gotta swat. I don’t have any answers, all I know is that it’ll take a really big fly swatter.”


And so Haravitch attempts to give listeners the musical antidote. The simple, fiddle-led instrumental “Acorns and Hazelnuts” melds a somber melody with more optimistic, finger-picked rhythms from the guitar and banjo. "Washboard” Dave Paprocki’s accordion-playing lends buoyancy to the traditional tune “Speed of the Plow,” and G. Elwyn Meixner adds an uplifting lap steel twang to the Cajun-country song “Give Me Cornbread.”


The warm Cajun-music flavor carries over to the French-language song “La Vie Sans Conflits,” or “The Life Without Conflict.” Joined by Barbara Johnston on pandeiro (a Brazilian hand drum similar to the tambourine), Haravitch injects Carribean vibes on the danceable “Belamina.”


And on the roots-rock closer, “Mediocrity,” Haravitch is backed by his newest band, The Blue Lemons, preaching a simple message of self-contentment: “Oftentimes I’m happiest when I’m alone at night / I’m walking down the middle, the middle of the road / It might not be a very straight line but still I’m walkin home.”

Benny Bleu & The Blue Lemons will play an album release show on Thursday, July 1, at 8 p.m., at Bop Shop Records, 1460 Monroe Avenue. $10 suggested donation; seat reservation required. Go to bopshop.com/event/benny-bleu for more info.


Daniel J. Kushner is CITY’s arts editor. He can be reached at dkushner@rochester-citynews.com.

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