He was brought up on the staple diet of Irish traditional music in his home village of Glenarm, but his parents also loved American country.
In the long vacs, law student Ben worked his way across America, adding to his repertoire of songs, and ever since then has felt that his writing is linked rather than separated by the Atlantic Ocean.
His latest album, Atlantic, marks those influences, and was created on the Irish side, in an improvised studio in a cottage overlooking the sea.
Ben’s is a distinctive voice, reminiscent of the great Roger Chapman of Family with its vibrato, but adding a very different depth of feeling.
It’s no accident he sometimes writes alongside that classic Southern storyteller Mary Gauthier, with both their songs steeped in the legends of their homelands.
Ben’s adopted home boasts the story of Robert Johnson, the blues guitarist said to have sold his soul to the devil in exchange for the ability to play guitar like no other. The transaction was at a crossroads (where else?) in Mississippi, and Ben has searched for the very spot, in vain, like so many more before him.
He and Gauthier have produced O Soul to mark the spot.
His co-composition with Gretchen Peters, Blackbirds, is a memorable gothic tale of jealousy and death,
Ben and Mary complete their joint tour in London on Wednesday, and Ben continues solo for a few gigs. He’s back this side of the ocean on a solo tour early next year, and he’s well worth seeking out.