This article originally appeared on Noisey US.
On Tuesday morning, a video was released of Benjamin Booker performing "Believe," the third cut from his forthcoming second LP, Witness, at the Columbus Theater. He was backed by a full string section and a gospel trio on backing vocals. And he was backed by the room itself, empty besides Booker and his band. Witness is an album about what we see and how we see it, sparked by the 27-year-old's move to Mexico last year, a period that he came to realize was more of a retreat than a long vacation. In an essay at NPR, Booker wrote that two questions drive the record, inspired by James Baldwin: "'Am I going to be a Witness?' and in today's world, 'Is that enough?'" In the otherwise empty Columbus Theater, Booker had his back turned to the seats, singing, "I just want to believe in something / I don't care if it's right or wrong."
Witness is streaming in full at NPR this morning ahead of its release on June 2. The urgent "Right on You" is the opener; first single "Witness," featuring Mavis Staples, anchors the first half of the album; and there's a lush studio version of "Believe" which is just as grand as the live performance. Other highlights come from "Truth Is Heavy" is an anxious love song that Booker pretty much whispers, and "Carry," a sweetly-constructed gospel-backed piano ballad that never snaps into its crescendo but pays off with the abrupt closer of "All Was Well." Listen to the full album below, via NPR.
Follow Noisey on Twitter.