This City Will Never Drown: A review of Ben de la Cour’s “To The River Rise”

This City Will Never Drown

by John G. Larson With his second album, “To The River Rise,” singer/songwriter Ben de la Cour proves that New Orleans was and always will be a refuge for the musically inclined.  

Ben de la Cour bleeds the songs he sings. With his second album, To The River Rise, this Brooklyn native and metal band veteran has opted for the solo route and made New Orleans his home. And like many before him (Paul Westerberg and A.A. Bondy come to mind), de la Cour has left the noise rock behind, to bring songwriting front and center.

To The River Rise is an emotionally driven record. The lyrics (deeply personal and recounting tales of years on the road), are delivered in a fragile tone, as if the lightest breeze could topple the words. The bare bones instrumentation, consisting of understated acoustic guitar and the occasional fuzzed-out electric or mandolin, bring de la Cour’s voice front and center.  With a phrasing style reminiscent of Joni Michell and the delivery of a young Bruce Cockburn, To The River Rise unfurls a song cycle in which a mood is created not by individual tracks, but by experiencing the work as a whole.

There is an underlying sadness to the set.  Within the understated instrumentation and de la Cour’s baritone voice, lie stark, haunting songscapes: moody recollections that recount the journey of a  life that is not always pretty, but proves better than one of mundane predictability.

This is not the stuff of sunny days at the park. Rather, it’s an album made for late night listening with a bottle or a friend. As the songs quietly reveal themselves over the course of 41 minutes, one can close their eyes and imagine hearing them in their element: a dive bar where the knucklehead factor is low and the people, who came to hear music, quietly sway as it washes over them.

 As he slowly carves out a fan-base by playing small venues across the country, it will be interesting to see how de la Cour’s career evolves over time and where it takes him. To quote a line from the album’s opening track, “Even if it All Falls Through,” “If I said I didn’t love this then I’d be a liar. Somehow, I believe him.
Stand-out tracks: “Even if it All Falls Through,” “To the River Rise,” “Memorial Day” and the beautiful album closer “The Town Where I was Born”
Recent and Upcoming Tour Dates
09.07 12 Bar (London, England)
09.15 The Junction (Bristol, England)
09.28 Green Note (London, England)
10.04 12 Bar (London, England)
10.21 Henflings Tavern (Ben Lomond, CA)
10.29 Last Stage West (Atascadero, CA)
11.01 Pirate Cat Radio 87.9 (San Francisco, CA)
11.02 Skylark Cafe (Seattle, WA)
11.04 Cozmic Pizza (Eugene, OR)
11.05 Hawthorne Theatre Lounge (Portland, OR)
11.06 The Vortex Room (San Francisco, CA)
11.07 19 Broadway (Fairfax, CA)
01.07/11 Fiddler’s Dream (Phoenix, AZ)
01.08 Copper State Tavern (Glendale, AZ)
01.09 PLUSH (Tucson, AZ)
02.28 Neutral Grounds Coffeehouse (New Orleans, LA)
03.28 Neutral Grounds Coffeehouse (New Orleans, LA)
04.12 Dean’s Credit and Clothing (Houston, TX)
04.21 Neutral Grounds Coffeehouse (New Orleans, LA)
05.05 Neutral Grounds Coffeehouse (New Orleans, LA)
06.20 12 Bar Club (London, England)
07.05 The Green Note (London, England)
07.22 Serda’s Coffehouse (Mobile, AL)
08.06 Hal & Mal’s (Jackson, MS)
08.07 Dalzell (Shreveport, LA)
08.29 Hi-Ho Lounge (New Orleans, LA)
08.30 Neutral Ground Coffeehouse (New Orleans, LA)
09.20 Neutral Ground Coffeehouse (New Orleans, LA)
10.11 Neutral Ground Coffeehouse (New Orleans, LA)
11.15 Jack of the Wood (Asheville, NC)


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