Pianist/composer Ben Cosgrove has released “Overpass,” the newest single from his forthcoming LP The Trouble With Wilderness, set for release on April 23rd. Each track on the album is about finding beauty in everyday spaces – not just places “set aside” for their scenic attributes, like natural parks, but in the cracks of sidewalks and rusted building structures and anywhere else our eyes land. “Overpass” was inspired by a big interstate highway that ran between the town where Cosgrove sheltered-in-place last year and the river beside it. Of the song, he says: “I was struck again and again by the absolute jungles of plant life exploding from all its edges, particularly under all the various little bridges that carried the highway over little streams and roads and such. It’s centered on that guitar-like repeated pattern at the beginning, but as the song goes on, its focus broadens to all these hazy, raw, interesting textures at the edges of the melody – much like the plants growing from the concrete, or like watching the landscape change as you drive down a highway.” “Overpass” follows the release of album tracks “Templates For Limitless Fields Of Grass” and “The Machine In The Garden.”
The Trouble With Wilderness is a lush, textured, and expansive set of 12 new songs that consider the role of nature and wildness in the built environment. Cosgrove has spent a lot of his career in collaborations and artist residencies with national parks, performing solo across the lower 48, and all of his solo compositions have been centered around those kinds of areas – until now. With the new LP, he encourages us to recognize beauty in the smallest blades of grass breaking through pavement, and in structures that have been overtaken by the wildness of nature. You can hear this when you listen to the album’s tracks, as he distills his observations and brings them to acoustic, percussive life on his keyboard.
“I found I was spending a lot of time on stage talking about national parks and oceans and wilderness areas, and not enough about the places that people are more likely to encounter in their everyday lives,” explains Cosgrove. The new songs illuminate his unique position as a musician suspended somewhere between genres: “I’m either a singer-songwriter who doesn’t sing, or I’m a composer who behaves like a singer-songwriter,” he has said in more than one interview, and his chatty, disarming stage presence would certainly make him seem more like a folk musician than a classical pianist. In addition to his solo instrumental work, Cosgrove regularly tours, records, and collaborates with artists from across the worlds of folk, rock, and Americana music, and while some moments on the album recall the work of George Winston, Keith Jarrett, Nils Frahm, or Ludovico Einaudi, his extensive experiences performing with bands like Ghost of Paul Revere are evident in more percussive, rhythmic songs like “The Machine in the Garden,” “Overpass,” and “This Rush of Beauty and This Sense of Order.” “I think the practice of formally or informally dividing the world up into a bunch of conventionally beautiful ‘natural’ parts and another bunch of utilitarian, unpretty, ‘unnatural’ ones is one of our society’s more misguided and lastingly harmful tendencies,” Cosgrove notes in the album’s liner notes.
The songs on The Trouble With Wilderness, faithful to this concept, are characterized by their textural contrasts and striking juxtapositions: ethereal and asymmetrical clouds blooming above a churning and insistent piano pattern, tapped and plucked noises from all over the inside of a piano snapping wildly over a graceful bassline, or delirious, ecstatic arpeggios that slowly burst free of their constraints. The production by indie-folk maestro Dan Cardinal (Josh Ritter, Darlingside, Lula Wiles, Session Americana, The Ballroom Thieves) both emphasizes the physicality of the instruments involved and elevates the sounds to places that are uncannily gorgeous and sometimes almost surreal. The result is an uncommonly beautiful set of songs and a massive step forward in Cosgrove’s idiosyncratic and increasingly mature body of work. Like the vernacular landscapes he looked to in composing it, the music on The Trouble With Wilderness sits on the narrow balancing point between order and wildness and manages to lean simultaneously into both.