REVIEW: Luke Beling – ‘A Stone In The Mouth Of The Ocean’. 9/10

The current state of the world and the rapid transformation of society and humanity is astounding. Bizarre would be the apt adjective. AI is absolutely everywhere and even the Beatles released a “new” song. WTF (as millennials will say). For me there is nothing to LOL about. Still, it does not matter what is going on around me, ultimately, nothing satisfies me more than the sound of a voice accompanied by a guitar. Let me clarify, both voice and guitar are generated by a real human. His name is Luke Beling and I am not sure what fucking tree he fell out of but man what a sweet fruit.

The opening track of Beling’s new album A Stone in the Mouth of the Ocean sounds very human in its simplicity and its depth. The opening notes grip you because of his warm voice that drips out of the speak (yes drips… like honey or something like that). The beautiful harmonies of the title track set the tone for what turns out to be a beautiful, consistent work. I am not sure how many people listen to albums. I do and I look for narrative arcs and there are plenty here. Beling is an exquisite writer and a storyteller comparable to Springsteen and The Felice Brothers. The quality assurance of the album is next level.
This album has no boundaries.

Beling is South African (I write this with a sense of pride and a bit of ownership) but the themes on this album are universal and the depth at which he tells his stories are absolutely compelling. Its impossible to analyse and quote lyrics from every song. I will point out there are no bad tracks… none whatsoever. My favourite is “Nightbirds” with the opening lines “Whistling on the wind/Those birds all in tune.” Its really beautifully sung and performed. My heart breaks when he sings “Oh in the light girl/I watch their wings burn”. These lines are the most beautiful display of humanity at its most innocent and maybe at its most receptive. The astute writing reminds me of Josh Ritter and even Aimee Mann.

“Too Late” is the catchiest song on the album and should get lots of airplay.

“ Pearl in the Tide” kicks off with great harmonica and crescendos into a fucking joy of a song. The smartest lines are contained in this beauty: “Walk in my shoes tell me what you feel/Do your toes begin to bruise.” Utterly incredible writing. This song is very Felice Brothers and that’s just about the highest compliment I can give any song. “Suzy” is also exquisitely written, and I cannot avoided Springsteen comparisons. These are narratives, written with lots of thought and plot lines that you can imagine in the best movies.

The production and the performance on each of these songs are not overblown, they serve the song and it will ensure the longevity of this music. This is an extremely accomplished album that grows with repeated listens. A notable comparison is Wren Hind’s latest Don’t Die in the Bundu, another South African making waves. The biggest problem with South African music is not the musicians, it the audience. I can offer a long list of exceptional South African musicians who have produced incredible albums. As humans we need to respond to the humanity and embrace this talent that seems to be in abundance. This album is proof that good music will never die no matter what the circumstances.

Review by Michael Erfort