Benji Kirkpatrick is a singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist who performs on guitar, mandolin and banjo although his favoured instrument is the bouzouki.
Born in Shropshire, England in 1976, he is the son of renowned English folk musicians John Kirkpatrick and Sue Harris, and his entry into the recording business suitably came about on his father’s 1994 album Earthling.
Benji subsequently formed the acoustic band The Hedgerows and toured around the UK and Europe, before launching his solo career in 1998 with Dance In The Shadow. Around the same time he co-founded the groundbreaking English folk trio Faustus (originally known as Dr. Faustus) with Saul Rose and Paul Sartin. He also worked with Magpie Lane, the Oysterband, and his father’s five-piece ceilidh band, Mr. Gubbins’ Bicycle.
In 2004 he helped co-found another seminal English folk group, the acclaimed big band Bellowhead and completed his second solo album, Half A Fruit Pie. After featuring on Seth Lakeman’s hit albums Kitty Jay and Freedom Fields, Benji played for three years in the Seth Lakeman Band – releasing his own third album, Boomerang, in 2008.
During 2016, Faustus were Artists in Residence at Halsway Manor (National Centre for the Folk Arts) where they had unlimited access to the Manor’s extensive library. Their latest album Death And Other Animals includes four songs unique to Halsway’s Ruth Tongue archive – and was actually recorded in the Manor itself.
Faustus blew me away with their sheer power and virtuosity when I saw them live at the English Folk Expo in 2014. The three tracks below give some sense of their vocal precision, instrumental mastery – and their absolute command of the recording process.
To my ears this album sounds like the band’s most assured release to date. The lyrics tackle, we’re told, “subjects from the Dance of Death to the plight of the common man, sand-swallowed ships to mythical black dogs”. Death And Other Animals can be bought direct from the Faustus Bandcamp page:
Over the years Benji himself has also worked with John Jones, Maddy Prior, Thea Gilmore and Joan as Police Woman. His fourth solo album Hendrix Songs saw him strip back the songs of his hero and set them in a new, acoustic light.
In summer 2016, as part of the Shakespeare 400 celebrations, Benji was involved in The Fairy Portal Camp at the RSC in Stratford upon Avon. Musicians, actors and dancers collaborated to produce new works every day for a week, working up to a final performance which opened “The Fairy Portal”…
More information on his solo projects at benjikirkpatrick.com