​Review: Open Arms by Ben Stafford

Words by: Verity Hesketh

At first listen, one could easily mistake Ben Stafford’s modestly sweet vocals and gentle finger-picked harmonies for another Ben – Ben Howard. Even the rounded burr of the Westcountry that signals Howard’s roots is present, not to mention the angsty finger-picked melodies, thematics of human unease, and laid-back surfer vibes. You get the drift.

Whilst being unable to listen to Open Arms exclusive of the prism created by Ben Howard, it’s a lovely, appealing track.  The dusk of a summer night gently, almost imperceptibly settles, as the first sweet strums of guitar sound out. As the piece builds, Stafford’s vocals are a deep, low murmur, rising from the instrumentation like smoke from a dying fire. This is a study of yearning in soft-focus. Prepare to be caressed by the warmth of acoustic reverb, whilst feeling the chill fingers of longing creep down your spine.

Much like other undemanding acoustic artists of his type, Ben Stafford relies on appeal through tender acoustic harmonies, though there is too much reliance on repetition to achieve a true sense of distinction in this debut. Sadly, I can’t shake Howard away from Stafford, and even the last refrain, ‘Love, love, love, love’ presumes ‘Only love, only love’.

‘Open Arms is now available on all streaming platforms.

Instagram: @benstaffordmusic
Listen to Ben’s track here: Open Arms