Review: Ben Poole Trio /// – Live ‘19
(January 31st 2020)
Reviewer: Peter Scallan
Ben Poole is one of a wave of young up and coming blues guitarist blazing a new trail for the genre. In the short time he has been kicking about, he has certainly gathered some great accolades for his playing and live performances. Therefore, this interest was of particular interest to me! This live set is a double CD and is basically Ben with bass and drums.
The album opens with the dirty riff of ‘Take It No More‘. It’s a catchy guitar chop with an equally catchy chorus. It also has some great light and shade with Ben acquitting himself well as guitarist and with some decent vocals. Next up is ‘Win You Over‘ which falls into a more blues style rhythm with some tasteful guitar playing. However, for the vocals sounded a little lightweight and a little limited, but good none the less.
‘Start the Car‘ is next up and has a great groove to it and powers along with another catchy chorus. The album then drops into some slow burning blues with an extended guitar intro with ‘Have You Ever Loved a Women‘. In fact the song is extended full stop lasting over 11 mins of the Freddie King classic. While the song suits both Ben’s guitar and vocal styling perfectly, for me it just goes on a little too long.
The outstanding song for me is next and that is ‘The Question Why‘, which is perfect for Ben’s voice. It is a little more soulful and suits the breathy vocals. For the penultimate track on CD 1 the tone goes a little more funky and harder-edged for ‘Further On Down The Line‘ before the closing track goes back to being a little lighter and soulful again with a great clean guitar part for ‘Don’t Cry For Me‘.
‘Lying To Me‘ opens the second disc and is back to the grooving guitar riff. There is a great brooding guitar riff for the chorus. However, it only serves to highlight the fact that vocals can’t match that power or intensity of the riff. Next we have a Jeff Healy number in the shape of ‘I Think I Love You too Much‘. This is a great rendition of the song but again for me highlights the limitations of Ben’s vocals. We drop back into a more laid back song called ‘Found Out The Hard Way‘. Doing this type of song suits Ben’s vocals and guitar playing. It also has the benefit of a killer chorus.
‘Stay At Mine‘ opens with a great drum intro and bounces along nicely on the drum/bass rhythm and picks up the pace just when it needs it. The funk returns with ‘Anytime You Need Me‘ with another great rhythmic, pacey number and chorus. However, for me it’s just a little too self-indulgent coming in at well over 14 minutes with a number of musical interludes. The last song is another slow burner in the form of ‘Time Might Never Come‘. This is another great song but again for me is just too long, lasting over 15 minutes and too much guitar self-indulgence.
Having got to the end of this double CD set, I have mixed feelings. There are some great songs on this album and some great playing. While I get that with a blues trio there is always going to be an element of showboating from the main man, for me in this instance the really long songs just don’t hold my interest enough. I would also rather hear more of Ben’s original material! And finally, my perennial niggle of the singing blues guitarist! There are some fine examples out there of this phenomenon, with the like of the Nimmo brothers and Kris Barras to name a few. However, some of the material in this set only serves to highlight Ben should either select the material to suit his vocals or have someone share the vocals, such as a bass player with a voice that can move up a notch for the harder-edged material. Overall impression is that this is a good album but could easily be an excellent album depending on which way Ben wants to go with vocal options. Existing fans won’t be disappointed, but I don’t see this attracting too many new fans.