Words by Wanda Maciusko, photo by Dave Barry
It was the darkened Spa Ocean Room on a Saturday afternoon at Scarborough’s Top Secret blues festival in 2015.
As the young man strummed his first chords and sang the opening lines of his initial number, the audience instinctively knew he was someone special.
“Good British acoustic blues is a rare commodity but Benjamin Bassford has certainly put himself up there with the best”, according to Adrian Blacklee of Blues Matters magazine. He wasn’t wrong.
Benjamin, who plays at Mojo’s at 4pm on 18 April, was born and lived in a pit village in Nottinghamshire. He went to a comprehensive where his interests were encouraged. His first interest was theatre and drums. He worked with county performers and was surrounded by a music-playing family, hearing everything from Rod Stewart to swing.
One day, he picked up his dad’s old classical guitar and started playing. He formed a duo and played in folk clubs and at open-mic nights in the Mansfield area.
At 18, he came to Hull University’s Scarborough campus to study contemporary theatre and performance, leaving with a first-class degree.
During this time, he developed a love of blues, roots and folk styles, which he has settled into playing. He was lucky to be living in a creative environment, surrounded by passionate musicians.
He spent a lot of time wandering round the town listening to Tom Waits’ Grapefruit Moon. He lived at 1 St Martin’s Square for two years. A photo of the front door graces the cover of his second EP, Songs from the Blue Door, released in 2016.
With the support of fellow students, particularly his long-time friend and recording engineer Emilio Rizzi, he recorded his first EP, Road Sickness, in 2014.
The same year, he played at Watermark and on the acoustic stage at the Great British R&B festival in Colne. The more he performed and travelled, the more he wanted to.
And so began the career of a remarkable singer on the British acoustic blues scene.
His music reminds me of American blues singers of the 1920s and 30s. He writes his own songs; his lyrics are haunting and moving.
He has gone from strength to strength while holding down a day job in Nottingham.
He’s now releasing a selection of singles on the Down–Home Recordings label, recorded on Emilio’s sofa.
Several films of Benjamin, including his first official music video, can be found on YouTube.
Benjamin’s website is at www.benjaminbassford.com.