Benjamin Booker and his new breed of punk-soul

by Claire Oxford ’18

Benjamin Booker is a New-Orleans based, raw-punk-soul artist who grew up in Florida. A part of a rising roots revival movement, he brings an eclectic edginess to the game that has its own niche — with more tension and angst in his songs than the smooth tunes of a more straight-laced soul singer, Leon Bridges.

In an interview with NPR, Benjamin Booker described how his gritty mix of punk, soul, blues, and gospel evolved, “I was just a music lover who wondered what it would sound like if Otis Redding strapped on a guitar and played in a punk band. That’s it.”

Booker’s self-titled album, released in 2014, hit the industry with some punch. He went from being a young aspiring artist rejected by NPR when he applied for an internship to producing his own demo, signing with ATO Records, LLC, and touring with Jack White. His music conveys more than just the raw, heated emotion of punk by connecting with the history of blues, soul, and gospel music in an African-American context. His music is both saturated with the past and pushing aggressively forward, with certain songs like “Wicked Waters” and “Slow Coming” bringing Booker’s own political frustration and disenchantment to light. 

While he hasn’t released another album since 2014, Booker remains an important artist to watch.