Ben Hall
Ben Hall!
Tompkins Square

Within the first eight bars of “Cannonball Rag,” the Merle Travis classic that kicks off Ben Hall’s debut album, you know you’re listening to a master of “thumbstyle” guitar. Hall plays with a magical combination of relaxed swing and relentless drive that is as inviting as it is rare. Producer Eric “Roscoe” Ambel kept the recording live and spare, so the sparkling sound of Hall’s ’90s Gretsch Country Classic (which he used on every track, despite the cool Tele-style Wallace pictured on the album cover) rings out cleanly. Accompanied on some songs by appropriately shuffling drums and gently thumping upright bass, Hall moves with authority and grace through this collection of mostly instrumental classics, putting his own stamp on each. Hall’s rendition of “Windy & Warm,” for instance, is slower and more pensive than the bouncier versions popularized by Chet Atkins and Doc Watson. Expect to hear a lot more from this extraordinary 22-year-old fingerpicker.