Grown Up Love

Ben Bostick

Independent release, 2021

REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg


Every so often a moment comes along that feels like it alters the trajectory of your entire life. For artists of all kinds, these moments can inspire some of their best work. Ben Bostick’s fourth album Grown Up Love is a member of this club, a mature and affecting work whose entire reason for existence stems from a single incalculably consequential moment.

As further preface, let’s also acknowledge that, for a parent, there is no harder moment to bear than the one in which you find yourself powerless to protect your child from harm. It is devastating. To craft meaningful, resonant art from that kind of moment requires a degree of both courage and skill that is too rare to measure.

After delivering two albums of smart and playful Americana matching honky-tonk flair with gritty poetry, Bostick changed things up. A South Carolina native who had lit out for the West Coast a few years before, in September 2019 Bostick, his pregnant wife and young daughter circled back around, moving to Atlanta. Their second daughter was born in February 2020, followed in quick succession by the arrival of the pandemic and then Bostick’s third album, the more contemplative and acoustic, yet sharper still Among The Faceless Crowd.

Three months later the moment arrived on which this entire album turns: Bostick’s elder daughter was diagnosed with Rett Syndrome, a rare and severe genetic disorder that affects all aspects of her life. In the aftermath, Bostick hunkered down farther still inside the comfort of his family unit and found himself composing a collection of songs about the enduring power and resiliency of, yes, grown up love. These are love songs far truer and tougher than anything you’re likely to find in the Top 40, grounded and potent and fueled by the purest devotion.

The album essentially tells a story in three parts. Part one opens with “Different Woman,” a bubbly, bass-and-horns-driven tune in which Bostick describes the changes he’s seen in his wife over the years they’ve been together, from a free-spirited “dealer in easy smiles” for whom “Commitments were optional / Time was a suggestion” to a more grounded partner who is “Bound by ties unbreakable / Unfree yet unconcerned.” In quick succession the gently bluesy “Shades Of Night” finds the couple chilling at the end of a long day of parenting, a tender, slumbery seduction, and “Lucky Us” delivers a poignant anthem to gratitude, declaring over picked acoustic guitar, organ, and piano that “We aren’t rich, but we aren’t poor / We got more, more than enough / Lucky me / Lucky you / Lucky us.” There’s foreshadowing as well, as Bostick sings “We have our burdens / But they won’t break us / We are more, more than strong enough…”my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The second act of the story takes place inside a single track. “The Diagnosis” is the heart of the album and nothing short of jaw-dropping. Opening like a gentle soul tune with chanted “do-do-doot do-do-dos,” it unflinchingly zooms in on the instant when everything changed. “Dreams are made of glass / They shatter so completely and it happens so fast / In a moment go from bliss to bust / The world changes so much faster than us.” With the ache of uncertainty in his voice, Bostick sings “Just because you know the truth don’t mean you know what it means,” before pushing onward to this remarkable resolution: “Lord, the heart is in constant motion / Tumbling downstream to the infinite ocean / Gasping, beating, looking for signs and wonders / Listening for signal in the storm and thunder / Hope will light the way / On the darkest of all days.”

After this cataclysm, Bostick retreats inside his own mind for a moment. The airy, echoey “Under The Palmetto Moon” offers a fantasy of escape (“The night belongs to us / Only us”), while the sublime “If We Only Had Tonight” imagines the end of the world over warm acoustic guitar and strings: “Let’s not wait ’til it’s too late / The end could come on any day / So love me like it’s our last time / Love me like we only had tonight.”

After this two-track interlude Bostick returns to the heart of the matter. First the thrumming, rather playful “The Myth Of Translation” explores the pitfalls of miscommunication, and then the warmly rendered ballad “A Grown Up Kind Of Love” delivers a manifesto contrasting youthful infatuation with the kind of deep and lasting commitment that sustains. Accordion lends the song a mischievous continental air as Bostick sings: “It’s such a shame when a heart’s fare goes to waste / It pains me just to think of / Those hungry souls who never will taste / A grown up kind of love.”

The closing pair are the kind of timeless classics that any balladeer worth his salt might spend years chasing and never manage to rope. Accompanied only by his own sweetly picked acoustic, on “Like Old People Do” Bostick paints the small, sweet moments that make up a lifetime together with a hopeful smile in his voice. And then, with the room already feeling dusty, he delivers closer “It Seems Like Only Yesterday.” “I can’t believe it’s already been one year / It seems like only yesterday we met,” he sings, remembering the moment with an affectionate chuckle, before hitting the chorus punchline: “I love you more tonight than I ever did before.” The second verse adds keening slide guitar as Bostick clarifies the arc of the song: “I can’t believe it’s already been ten years...” After the second chorus there’s a hitch like he might be done, but it’s just a setup for the coup de grace. Suffice it to say, if this one doesn’t melt your heart, you should probably get that looked at.

One of the many things that Bostick does so well here is to leaven the album’s overall serious tone with moments of lightness and humor, carving out emotional space for joy that ends up making the tougher lines bite that much harder. It’s both a master class in storytelling and a naturalistic reflection of life, in which the tragic lives alongside the absurd, and laughter and tears are never that far apart. Ben Bostick’s combination of fearless honesty and peerless craft reminds of no one so much as Jason Isbell, which is to say, he’s world class. Grown Up Love is exceptional in every respect.

Rating: A

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