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Ben Sidran: Don’t Cry For No Hipster

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As pianist and vocalist Ben Sidran reminds us in the liner notes, “Anybody who self-identifies as a hipster is, by definition, not one.” Which would mean that Sidran, a card-carrying hipster of the first order, is declassifying himself with this album. Or is he? If a hipster is distancing himself from hipsterism, acting as observer and commentator, does that remove allow him to maintain his hipster cred? Clearly yes, because Sidran serves up the hippest album since, well, the last Ben Sidran album, his 2009 appreciation of the once-hip Bob Dylan.

Sidran turns 70 later this year, so it’s understandable that this collection of funny, wry and occasionally even spiritual musings tends toward backward glancing, shaping a regretless series of life lessons. As he notes in the title track, for the aging hipster, “When young becomes old/And cool turns to cold/That’s when we’ll see/If that truth sets him free.”

Though slightly less cynical than musical soulmate Mose Allison, Sidran strikes a “the more things change, the more they stay the same” attitude across “Brand New Music” and “It Don’t Get No Better.” Such fatalism is brightened by the delightfully slothful “Rich Interior Life,” the mood-enhanced “Take a Little Hit” and the bouncy ode to gumption “At Least We Got to the Race,” then darkened by the somber “Dying Anyway.” And, on one of only two covers (the other is a gorgeous instrumental treatment of Monk’s “Reflections”), leave it to Sidran to transform one of the squarest tunes ever written, Merle Travis’ “Sixteen Tons,” into a finger-snapping hipster anthem.

Originally Published