In the past, Ben Poole has been building a huge reputation based largely on his live performances and a superb recording of him at the Royal Albert Hall as part of the British Blues festival. His previous album ‘Time Has Come’ drew critical acclaim but it didn’t really manage to put over the punch and vibrancy of his stage shows.
When I heard that Poole was being produced by Wayne Proctor (King King) at Proctor’s Superfly studios, my immediate thought was that Poole had gone to the right place to bring out the shaper side of his sound and this album definitely seems to have done just that.
Poole’s vocals are still as emotive and sensitive as ever but the whole sound of the album has developed a real ‘snap’ and the rhythmic side of his music is really brought out – this is rather like taking a gauze veil away from his music, exposing the funk and grit that was always there.
Take a track such as ‘You Could Say’: the riff is deliciously lithe – faintly reminiscent of the Doobie Brothers – with Ross Stanley’s Hammond and Beau Barnard’s bass bringing some depth to the sound and Wayne Proctor’s funk laden drums driving the track on but it is Poole’s vocals that really stand out, showing his fine singing voice and setting the song up for a stunning guitar solo. For that to lead into the much darker and harder-edged ‘Found Out The Hard Way’ and still keep the ear grabbing at every element of the music is a great job.
The thing that really stands out on the album is the quality of the songwriting and Poole has written 7 of the songs along with Proctor and Steve Wright. The co-writers really hit the spot with some great melodies and songs that are really suited to Poole’s voice. The three covers include a stunning version of Don Henley’s ‘Dirty Laundry’, slowing it down a touch and adding the punch that the original didn’t have – Poole’s guitar swaggers and howls.
Personal favourite track is ‘Further Down The Line’; I just love the heavy rhythms and the distortion on the guitar all coupled with his best vocal performance on the album.
In many respects, this is Ben Poole casting off shackles and emerging as a free spirit. It really hits the mark and I can’t really find a fault with it.