Ken Bantz
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Ken Bantz

Portland, Indiana, United States | SELF

Portland, Indiana, United States | SELF
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"Complete the Circle"

Complete the Circle
Ken Bantz
by Jason Hoffman


Ken Bantz

Complete the Circle

I'm not saying that just anyone can put together a three minute song, but it takes a certain something extra to break that five minute mark and keep the listener's interest. On his second release, Complete The Circle, Ken Bantz shows that he's got just that kind of moxie. Not once but four times.

For the most part the lyrics on Complete The Circle concern themselves with the kind of socio-political topics that would be at home on John Mellencamp's label, if he had a label. To wit: "Boy With The Fife," which is a war protest song, although a Civil War war protest song that captures a lonely feel with dark acoustic guitar, stark vocals and the occasional somber wail. "Prophets And Sages" brings in a hint of country via pedal steel guitar, opening with an almost Morse code pattern on a high reedy organ before more silky jazz organs enter to accompany the acoustic guitar. Further in, the female background vocals grow more soulful, adding urgency to the closing passage that features Bantz's Knopfler-influenced soloing. The jazz vibe continues on "Yeah, Yeah (Politician) Blues," where a sax (played by Dave Streeter) dominates the upbeat, energetic song that is definitely not based on a blues chord structure. Â

"Turn The Night Into Day" is the rocker of the album with throbbing bass, pounding drums and synth horns. As one would expect, there is plenty of room for sizzling guitar solos. A David Gilmour feel occurs at the beginning of "Roll Like A River," but it isn't long before this dark mid-tempo song about the faith in the people of this country finds it's footing as the kind of encouraging patriotic song Mellencamp would write. The title track opens with a mournful flute awash in reverb, giving it a nice Native American sound. Acoustic guitars and hand percussion form a layered sound with slight bass and touches of electric guitar, forming a relaxed song until halfway through when the flutes and guitars become more aggressive, growing into a jam session where Bantz sings, "Come together / Right now" before an astounding electric guitar solo makes its entrance.

The surprise of the album is "The Time Has Come" which is nearly 10 minutes of reggae. Bantz sings "The time has come / For all of us to raise our consciousness / To stop the cycle of war and hate / To seek out truth, love and create," eventually pointing to the need to protect "our Mother Earth." The reedy organs, bluesy background vocals and flutes give the song a strong grounding in 70s rock and, true to the genre, ends in a soulful jam that will have listeners thinking both of Santana and Clapton.

While there are only seven songs on Complete The Circle, each shows a mature composition style and excellent, tastefully restrained musicianship, all held together by the amazing talents of Jon Gillespie, who is able to help Bantz avoid the trap of many singer/songwriters who try to flesh out songs and instead sound like a solo artist with a band hastily pasted on. No, this is a real band working together, musicians communicating with each other through their instruments, expertly performing these seven wonderful songs for those who have ears. Available at Wooden Nickel stores. (Jason Hoffman)
- WHATZUP


"You Can't Go Back"

You Can't Go Back
Ken Bantz
by Jason Hoffman
I’m not sure how long Ken Bantz has been playing guitar or writing songs, but it’s obvious from his lyrics that he’s always been a keen observer of life. When he decided to make a permanent record of these observations, he turned to Monastic Chambers and enlisted some of the areas finest: Todd Harrold on drums, Tim Beeler on bass, and Marty Price on dobro (not to mention Jon Gillespie on organ and various expert studio touches). The result is You Can’t Go Back, a 10-song slice of Hoosier Americana.

The title track is a nicely written country-tinged rocker with reedy organ and flourishes of power chords telling the story of a young man who leaves home to find himself, eventually settling down to start a family and finding that to be his true calling. The encouraging chorus melody and earnest feel leads one to wonder how much of this outstanding leading track is autobiographical. “Blind Jack Johnson” is the first of many story songs, this one an up-tempo Delta blues song about the wisdom of the title sage. The instantly identifiable sound of the dobro harkens images of the dusty South, a very nice touch to the tale of Blind Jack Johnson. Another story song is “Ballad of John Henry.” Packed with dobro and a railroad-like guitar rhythm, the instrumentation slowly unfolds alongside the story of a wrongly accused common man. Although the song never breaks out into the massive vamp it seemed destined for, it does end with a minute-long, very heated and impressive electric guitar solo from Bantz. Cellist Bob Savage joins Bantz on “Till That Whistle Blows.” This trapped song tells of working hard to support your family with lines like “Seen a lot of jobs go down to Mexico / Seen a lot of good people get laid off / Took a big cut in pay / And now we live day to day / Now I’m so tired thinking ‘bout a second job.” The simple instrumentation and world-weary vocals make the song a strong standout.

Bantz also packs a number of acoustic love songs onto this debut album. “Crowded Room” tells of love at first glance with a 70s light rock feel, background vocals from Amy Moser and some very Clapton-esque guitar throughout. Bantz beautifully coaxes his 12-string through the serene desire for a night of escape with a loved one known as “Idaho Night,” and in “One Beating Heart” brushed drums and a finger-picked acoustic create an intimate, hushed song of affection.

A number of elements combine to make You Can’t Go Back a wonderful listening experience. It’s obvious that Bantz took his time with this roots-rock album, devoting attention to everything from the clean production to the professional artwork. Bantz has a strong vocal presence, calming like James Taylor yet firm in delivery, and his guitar playing is consistently excellent, whether he’s playing acoustic, electric, or 12-string. The songs are well composed, as are the melodies and the lyrics, making one want to Go Back to these familiar-feeling stories again and again.

- WHATZUP


Discography

Releases-2 Full Length CD's:
"You Can't Go Back"
"Complete the Circle"

Photos

Bio

Ken Bantz's life has been a series of travels and adventures ranging from all across the continent to his midwest roots. His varied life experiences range from midwest farms to glass factories to universities to Northwest mountain tops to Fortune 500 companies to back country Idaho bars to working for John Mellencamp. The one constant throughout has been his music-he has been nurturing his passion for writing and playing for over two decades. These experiences have provided a broad/colorful emotional spectrum that Bantz draws upon when writing and is evident in his debut release "You Can't Go Back". An album whose songs include the rocker "You Can't Go Back", the up-tempo Delta blues of "Blind Jack Johnson", the soft twelve string acoustic rhythm and soaring electric guitar in the love at first sight "Crowded Room", the plight of over 3 million post-NAFTA American workers in "Till That Whistle Blows", the calliope and sloppy tuba in "Boo Radley"-are among the songs included on this slice of life.
"I'm not sure how long Ken Bantz has been playing guitar or writing songs, but it's obvious from his lyrics he's always been a keen observer of life. A number of elements combine to make "You Can't Go Back" a wonderful listening experience. Bantz has a strong vocal presence, calming like James Taylor yet firm in delivery, and his guitar playing is consistently excellent, whether he's playing acoustic, electric or 12 string. The songs are well composed, as are the melodies and the lyrics, making one want to Go Back to these familiar-feeling stories again and again." -Whatzup.
Bantz's recent second release "Complete the Circle" contains powerfully written, guitar driven songs addressing the socio-political climate of our times. "Complete the Circle" includes songs that ponder and question-"The Boy With the Fife"-a song driven by a lonely classical guitar about the futility of war;"The Time has Come"-a 10 minute reggae jazz/fusion jam that hsa a moving groove-about how change can/will come if we raise our collective consiousness and "Prophets and Sages" a song of varying tempos with an ending of haunting vocals and liquid guitar. "Turn the Night into Day" on "Complete the Circle" pleads for the darkness to be turned to light in a flat out rocker of screaming horns and wailing lead guitar. Bantz expresses perspective and wry humor in "Yeah, Yeah (Politician)Blues"-a soprano sax, toe tapping, swing driven tune. He ends "Complete the Circle" with two songs of promise and hope. "Roll Like A River" with it's harmonica, twelve string and flowing pedal steele guitars expresses trust/faith in free people and democracy. The journey ends with the title song-"Complete the Circle"-a song that starts with a moderate tempo but builds in pace and intensity to a jamming crescendo-"let your love set you free- right now". The music on "Complete the Circle" is complimented by the exceptional cover art of Thomas Abbott and lay-out/graphic design of the award winning Matt Kelley of One Lucky Guitar. The music and artwork on "Complete The Circle" combine to create/shape an extraordinary journey. "I'm not saying that just anyone can put together a three minute song, but it takes something extra to break that five minute mark and keep the listener's interest. On his second release , "Complete the Circle", Ken Bantz show that he's got that kind of moxie. Not once but four times." -WHATZUP