Benjamin Booker’s voice carries more haggard weight than his 25 years should convey. Maybe it’s from the cigarettes he’s been known to smoke, or maybe it’s because anyone who sings the blues has a sad story to tell, no matter their age. Except that Booker, a Tampa-born, New Orleans-based singer/songwriter/guitarist, plays more than just the blues. Using that old-school style as his base, he searches for his best sound by exploring backbeat-driven rock and the fervor of the ’70s punk movement into his self-titled debut.
Booker has earned significant attention this summer — from opening for Jack White to performing at major festivals like Lollapalooza and Newport Folk — and Benjamin Booker lives up to the accolades. His soulful forefathers bear their influences on the trudging intro to “Slow Coming,” which could have come from a Junior Kimbrough record, as well as the smoldering outro to “Have You Seen My Son?,” which veers off into extended improvisation. However, Booker’s youthful punk sound emerges on three particularly heavy cuts — lead single “Violent Shiver,” “Always Waiting” and “Old Hearts” — none of which crack the three-minute mark. With songs that have such varied influences sitting side by side, Booker unleashes a colossal amalgamation of sonice forces, but it also seems like he’s still trying to find himself.