Two new albums from the Bay

Music Plus
with Winston Watusi

I’m looking at two new local albums today, very different from each other but with one big similarity. 

One is from Irish band The Whittakers, the other from singer-songwriter Ben Lloyd. I’ve heard the band live and their previous albums but Ben is new to me.

He recorded an album about a decade ago but his live playing has been mostly corporate events, weddings and the like. 

The Whittakers offering is grounded in acoustic Irish music though incorporates a dizzying array of world music genres. Ben’s is mainstream rock. What unites the two albums is that while each has one songwriter, the songs are arranged and mainly played by another person. 

The Whittakers recorded ‘My Songs’ at Whakamārama’s Boatshed Studio. Bassist Dave Williams, now retired from the band, is still here, with singers Richard Grautstuck – writer of the songs – and Mitz Amores, who also contributes mandolin.

But, musically, it’s primarily Robbie Laven. 

Robbie Laven recording.

Robbie co-wrote some songs, arranged them all, and plays violin, Transylvanian phono fiddle, acoustic and electric guitars, bass, octave mandolin, flute, clarinet, penny whistle, five-string banjo and percussion. Often all at the same time. 

Well, not literally at the same time, but several tracks feature massed overdubbed Robbies, with fiddles, flute, guitars and more. Richard and Mitz – who makes a nice job of the only non-original, the Fillipino folk song ‘Sarung Banggi’ – are slightly shaky singers but are surrounded by some of the most extravagant arrangements you can wave a tambourine at. 


There are time changes, Eastern harmonies, unexpected dynamics and more; it is an unusual record, constantly surprising with its musical inventiveness. However, it’s not on Spotify or YouTube – have a listen on Bandcamp. 

Ben Lloyd, on the other hand, is on Spotify and YouTube and has a terrific, very commercial rock voice. He also writes a solid rock song, epitomised by the opening track on ‘Leap of Faith’, the mid-tempo and very catchy ‘Amy’. 

Ben Lloyd.

Ben sings and plays rhythm guitars, with everything else supplied by main man at Welcome Bay’s Colourfield Studio, Tim Julian. Being a fairly conventional MOR album that means keyboards, bass, guitars and drums, on songs ranging from the heavy-rocking ‘Change’ to more acoustic ballads such as ‘Goodbye’. 


The album has been on the go for just over a year now. Ben and Tim originally recorded 14 songs then cut it down to 12. The songs have a good variety and it makes for easy listening. 

And it also makes for an interesting comparison with The Whittakers, each album essentially musically showcasing one multi-instrumentalist. In the case of The Whittakers it’s the totally unbridled and occasionally overpowering musicianship of Robbie Laven; in Ben’s the very tidy and rarely intrusive, if somewhat anonymous backing of Tim Julian. I suspect people will have their own preferences. 

The Whittakers.

Also out now, the debut album, ‘The Rose of Jerico’, from Mount Maunganui’s Best Pop Artist Tui winner Georgia Lines, and the title track of Gary Harvey’s ‘Outta My Head’, the album’s second single. 

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