Takin' Another Crack At It !
By Mem Semmes
Click on the highlighted song titles for a demo !
On Saturday morning, March 15, 2003, at 10:00, at the Will McLean Festival, from the Magnolia
Stage, a voice launched acapella, into “The Star Spangled Banner.” A voice of such power and
beauty, it mesmerized the entire festival crowd. That voice belonged to young Benjamin
Dehart. It was the first time he had attended Willfest and he became an instant legend.
Between the 2003 and the 2004 festivals, Ben put together a CD, “Takin’ Another Crack At It!”
which contains eleven songs, eight of which he authored. In addition, he did the arrangements,
sang lead vocals and perfect harmonies, played flute, harmonica, guitar and, at appropriate
moments, cracked the Florida cow whip. His brother Jason played banjo, Gilbert Dhennin and
Leo Vieira, symphonic keyboard, and Tony Macaluso upright bass.
The album was produced almost flawlessly by Gilbert Dhennins’ NIGHTWIND PRODUCTIONS,
P.O. Box 690791, Orlando, FL 32869. Ben himself played a major role in its production. The
music flows seamlessly—instrumentation enhancing a clear, soaring tenor that defies
description. The most apt title I can lay on Ben Dehart is “Pavarotti of Florida Folk.”
But then Pavarotti, to the best of my knowledge, is not a songwriter, as Dehart definitely is.
The CD opens with “Grey Cow Cavalry,” a song describing the Florida cowboys who rode with
Jake Summerlin rounding up scrub cattle and driving them to Baldwin as food for rebel
soldiers. The sound effects of cattle, drovers and cow whips lend an aura of authenticity.
“All I Really Ever Wanted To Do Was Be A Cowboy” describes graphically the plight of so many
who trade their dreams for security. “Open Country” expresses the yearning of lovers of
nature frustrated by unrestrained development. With “Papa, Can You Hear?”, “1993-2003, Our
First Ten Years,” and “Granny, I Miss You,” Ben shares his deep love for his wife and family.
“Drunk Traps” is clever and lighthearted. Ben’s version of Frank Thomas’s “Cracker Cowman”
earned the highest accolades. “It’s the best rendition I ever heard,” declared Frank. The trilogy
ending the CD exemplifies such powerful emotion and marvelous sound that I will not even try
to describe it. I promise you an experience you will not forget.
Ben dresses in authentic old Cracker gear and is thus pictured on the cover art of
“Takin’ Another Crack At It!” His personality, as well as his music, takes us back to a time long
ago and already forgotten by too many. This excellent work brings that world to pulsing life as it
fills our being with a beauty and pathos provided only by greatness.
Mem Semmes is the publicity director for the Will McLean Folk festival.