I was born and raised a Catholic. I went to Catholic school from kindergarten through twelfth grade. I was an altar boy too. I went to church at least twice a week for the better part of my early life. As a kid I had no choice but when I reached my teens I finally started to rebel a little bit though it didn’t matter, I still went to church. When I went away to college I didn’t have to go to church anymore except when I came home to visit.
There was something very freeing about this. However at no point did I ever stop believing in what I had been taught all those years, even when I was exposed to people on a wider scale, some of them who all they wanted to do was try to prove that organized religion was nonsense and that “god” in any form did not exist. The fact that the Bible made no mention of dinosaurs was always the nail in their coffin. Then I would sometimes ask these people I overheard saying these things if they railed against the Goth kids the same way about there being no vampires. I got mixed responses.
The music was always something that I liked about church though, the hymns mostly. I can admit the thanks and praise part amongst a group was largely lost on me. I didn’t want to give thanks and praise in unison. I wanted to do it in my own way and on my own. Perhaps that was where the slight rebellion was born. But had I been able to play an instrument and write songs I might well have taken the path of Rochester, Michigan singer/songwriter Ben Heymoss whose debut record Intentional covers a diverse amount of musical genres from folksy-rock to hip-hop. The binding theme of the album though is that they are all songs which in some way praise God and deal with Heymoss’s relationship with him.
Skeptics still reading this might be ready to give up at this point. I can tell you as soon I read Heymoss’s bio a little red flag went up in my brain too. But then I thought about how many hundreds of records I’ve ever reviewed and how all of the songs on them, good or bad, had to do with a relationship of some kind. Most of the songs were about relationships between people; the old boy and girl sad dribble. So then what’s it matter if the x in the equation here is not a man or a woman but God?
And with the opening track “Intentional” Ben Heymoss proves to be a damn good musician and songwriter. “Intentional” is infectious; it’s rhythmic guitar jangle pop converted me right away. His vocals are deep yet mellow. Next we get the slow and rhythmic “I Just Know” that grazes around early Bon Iver territory and then flows into a funkier territory. Then Heymoss threw me for a loop with the funky hip-hop addled “Divine” on which he flows rather divinely and shows that he isn’t about to be pigeonholed. Then he takes it to a higher level of funky reggae and rap on “Lose Your Life (ft. Cleveland Thrasher).”
I’ll admit that I went into listening to Intentional with a bit of skepticism. But I came out of it with a sense of comfort and happiness. These songs are not preachy, they are not fire and brimstone but finely crafted songs of praise and thankfulness that stretch multiple genres. There are melodies and meanings that stay with you long after Intentional is done. And that I believe is the intention Ben Heymoss had and has accomplished with this record.
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