Single Review: Ben Mark Smith - 'Who's The Girl?'

Punk-inspired Nottingham troubadour offers a heartfelt and poignant ballad of the chase, the thrill and the fall of a Tinder relationship.

A backbone of the flourishing acoustic setup, Ben Mark Smith epitomises the generosity and camaraderie that Nottingham has to offer, and at the end of 2019, The Mic recognised his contribution to the city’s music scene with a Special Recognition award. In 2020 however, the focus has well and truly shifted from Smith’s charisma as an individual to his ability as a songsmith, kicking the decade off with a track that has been slowly weaving itself into the fabric of the city’s bristling acoustic scene over the past year.

"The reflective folk track ebbs and flows as a carefree jaunt, building in passion and vitriol with inspiring results."

A running thread of compassion, understanding, connecting, love and kindness runs through Who’s The Girl?, a joyously classic folk offering, taking in inspirations of Will Varley, The Pogues and Beans on Toast, and shifted into the realms of modernity as Smith narrates the progression of a Tinder-led match-up from start to finish with beguiling delicacy and detail. Humorous vignettes of his encounters with the woman of mystery have his listeners twirling around his fingers, lyrics ‘Her nose twitches like the girl from Bewitched’ conjure a chuckle on repeated listen.

The reflective folk track ebbs and flows as a carefree jaunt, building in passion and vitriol with inspiring results, a sublime accompaniment of strings and percussion contrasting the roughened purity of Smith’s gravelled vocals. Having approached the song with a more expansive frame of mind, Smith is able to freeze decisive moments in a still-frame to be enjoyed by all. A sense of humour, a gentle plea, a driving sense of purpose all manage to be wrapped in the warmth of one of Nottingham’s most treasured individuals.

Ben's 'Who's The Girl? Launch Show' at Jamcafe 13/1/20

The track had already risen to cult-like status in the city’s acoustic scene in recent months, with local musicians rising to cover it and crowds huddled behind liquid courage in cavernous pubs and bars to bellow out the final chorus, which, in its studio rendition, enlists a series of virtuosic string flourishes alongside some backing vocals from a range of local friends and talent.

Smith’s decadent realism has always been a soothing quality but the melancholic kindness within lines ‘She’s had troubles but she’s fine / We had a good time / Maybe soon we could meet for a chat’ shows that the troubadour represents a core tenet of British decency and goodwill that is fast forgotten in music. Whilst reflecting on the past is a core aspect of life as a singer-songwriter, Ben Mark Smith is finding his stride and honing his style, one verse after the other.