It requires a special type of music or a particular CD to engage with on those long, solitary drives through canyon folds or back country hills in the spring or fall, with the wind in your face.
Ben Dunlap has produced such a CD. His acoustical guitar and vocals explore the musings of the inner man, with universal language and themes. During season, you can find Ben Dunlap playing at a number of Naples and Macro Island hot spots.
Dunlap makes the rounds while he’s in Naples for the season, from Paddy Murphy’s to South Street Grill, the Pickled Parrot and Pelican Larry’s. He brings his unique style of acoustic rock to a variety of lounges and clubs, and each house brings out a different element of his style.
On a chilly night at Nacho Mama’s, on Marco, Dunlap’s acoustical guitar rides the cool breeze that pervades the restaurant, invoking some languid, rhythmic bopping among the clientele.
With a winsome smile and fleet fingers on the strings, he entertains with many standard favorites: “Drive,” by the Cars, Skynyard’s “Sweet Home Alabama,” Bob Marley’s “Every Little Thing (is gonna be alright)” and Dylan’s “Knocking on Heaven’s Door.” Picking up on the nuances of the original without losing his own unique sound, Dunlap delivers a crowd pleasing sound.
Dunlap breaks into a bluesy version of James Taylors’ “Steamroller,” and one sees and hears a resemblance, with Dunlap a little less nasal, with better hair. He plays a very 1970 set of Grateful Dead, Van Morrison and Doobie Brothers, sounding a bit like a less controversial Cat Stevens, in simpler times. He writes much of his own music and is working on his second CD. However, in this venue, he sticks to the popular favorites of other artists.
Dunlap is an Atlanta resident who spends the winter season in Naples, working local clubs and short gigs. In Atlanta, he works with Collective Souls, a hard-rocking Georgia-based group that has experienced major success in many markets, recently playing a benefit concert for the Save Darfur Coaliation at the Tabernacle, in downtown Atlanta.
Originally from New Hampshire, Dunlap took voice lessons, but not guitar, finding he was able to teach himself how to play. He says, “It’s not as hard as people think it is.”
Dunlap was inspired to enter the music business by his mom, a musician, writer and singer, who plays guitar and creates her own original music. Although partial to Arlo Guthrie, Bonnie Raitt and Phoebe Snow, the young Dunlap developed his instincts and desire for the stage from working with her.
He was a marketing major in school, but later describes that adventure as, “Disappointing, to say the very least.” Over the years, he has worked with some well-knowns, but frankly, remains unimpressed with musicians as a whole. “Unless it’s a sports person,” he says, “I just blow it off.”
He generally doesn’t play his original music when on a job, but with encouragement, may succumb to a request.
“It’s a different crowd that comes in to hear original music,” he says, understanding that most of the time the crowd wants to hear the old, familiar stuff.
His guitar is an Alverez Yairi. In searching for an instrument, he explains, “I went around and played every guitar I could find.” After making the rounds of stores and music shops, he chose the Alverez, because, “It sounded good; it’s handmade. I used it on the CD.”
It is a first-quality instrument that can be found in the hands of some of the biggest names in music. Fondling it, he says, “It’s the only guitar I ever loved.”
You can check out Dunlap and his CD atmyspace.com/bendunlap.