Kevin Bennett has had many incarnations as a working musician and songwriter.
But his role as the man in the middle of two of the most beautiful voices in Australian country music has been a new adventure, and most enjoyable journey.
Bennett Bowtell and Urquhart, or BBU as they are known, scored two Golden Guitars with their first album in 2015. Their newly completed second album, Weeds, has that award-winning feel about it, too.
The supergroup’s chemistry among them worked from the start.
“We found we get on so well,” Bennett says when we talk on Wednesday, just before he goes into Mixmasters studio in Adelaide where he is working on Jessica Wishart’s debut album. “ I’m older, but the girls are mature. That kind of helps. I think it helps we are a three-piece, because we get decisions. Usually we get a consensus. And that’s a good thing.”
The 11 tracks on the new album are seamlessly tight, the vocals are natural and flowing. It’s like new country music was decades ago – original and fresh, bending towards pop with strong lyrics, plenty of harmonies and a bit of twang.
The first album was good – good enough to win Golden Guitars for Best Alternative Country Album and Best Group in 2017. But this one takes it up another notch.
“I don’t think we realised when we got together how good we sound,” Bennett says. “It was a surprise. Lyn Bowtell is one of best singers who ever drew a breath.”
Bennett has several projects always on the go, including his ongoing commitment to The Flood, his long-time country roots band and a Golden Guitar-winning outfit as well.
But this trio, BBU, is new territory.
“When we got together we first sang covers,” he says. “Then our own. I think we were all surprised by our blend . . .
“To us it had something special. I think that’s the reason it had legs.
“The first record did well. But this one was way easier to do. The first one we were finding our way – made it on a shoestring.”
The energy comes all three, and it shows. Each member contributed songs, but they worked through them together.
“The best idea was to get together now and then, sit around a table and write songs,” he says “The way we did that was surprising. We all brought a music idea to the projects. Come with a musical idea, a chorus or a verse, and the three of us would finish it.
“The songs are written by all of us, from an initial idea.”
There are some absolute gems among them.
The title song, Weeds, is one of them.
“Lyn came out with that,” Bennett says. “She played it a soundcheck. We all went, ‘wow’.”
Like some of the others, it’s hard-edged love song. Weeds is about behaving (or misbehaving) in a relationship.
Down the Hall is based on a true story Bennett heard from country songwriter Lola Brinton about an Indigenous woman being mistreated by a hospital in a medical emergency.
Love or Money (the first single) is a poppy country love song, and Mountain of Pain is a veiled description of President Trump’s world.
Bennett is frank about his limitations and how he fits in.
“Luckily, the girls let me attempt a harmony I feel comfortable with, and they work around it,” he says. “I don’t always sing a natural harmony. I might launch into something that sounds good, but not normal.”
The gigs are fun: “a minimum of fuss” as Bennett describes it – three guitars and a microphone. Plus, Glen Hannah supports on guitar.