Music, and people’s interest in it, comes in cycles and, whilst it is true to say that good music never goes away, it is often the case that a given genre can raise itself higher (or sink lower) within the public consciousness. The blues, since its inception, has never really gone away, but it does seem that in the last few years there has been a remarkable blooming of young talent and artists like Dan Patlansky, Chantel McGregor and Laurence Jones have all demonstrated that you need neither be old nor worn down by the road to deliver an authentic blues that sings from the soul and hides a sting in its tail. Adding to that list is Ben Poole, an artist who has already gained much acclaim from the likes of Jeff Beck, Gary Moore, Guitarist magazine and The Blues magazine. In short, he is a hotly tipped guitarist and his serendipitously titled album ‘time has come’ is liable to propel him ever further into the big league.
Recorded at Nottingham’s Superfly studios, ‘Time has come’ is one of those glorious live recordings captured with a sense of detail (thanks to King King’s Wayne Proctor who also plays drums on the majority of the album) that has you ducking the sweat as Ben digs deep to unleash yet another fiery solo. The album kicks off in a soulful mood, however, with ‘lying to me’, a track written by Todd Sharpville (who also lends a hand on guitar) that pits Ben’s grungy guitar against sweet organ and smooth backing vocals only for a blistering solo to ignite at the heart of the song, sending sparks flying and the band into overdrive. The sort of song that would perfectly open a live set, ‘lying to me’ packs a punch, but it’s wrapped in a velvet glove, and the intimacy of the recording only adds to the sense of drama as Todd digs into a concluding solo that will leave jaws hanging. ‘I think I love you too much’ (which features Aynsley Lister on guitar), in contrast, captures that lightness of touch that powers Robert Cray’s ‘I shiver’, and the way that the band deftly navigate the song to add their own distinctive flourishes (a segue solo here, a neat fill there) highlights the fact that Ben Poole is far more concerned with the soul and feel of the song than many artists whose quest for digital perfection has seen the humanity all but scrubbed from their music. A rich ballad, ‘Longing for a woman’ is underpinned with acoustic guitar and the effect is very much that of latter day Pearl Jam jamming on blues covers with Neil Young. There’s a powerful sense of emotion running through the track, whilst the way that the chorus opens up is a real arms-aloft moment that is perfectly crowned by Ben’s solo work. Heading into Clapton territory, ‘if you want to play with my heart’ recalls Eric’s excursions into reggae thanks to its lightness of touch and melodic construction, only for the clouds to roll in as Ben drifts into the beautiful, Gary Moore-esque ‘time might never come’, a song that contains the sort of godly solo that one might expect from David Gilmour. Comparable in length and feel to ‘comfortably numb’ (and believe me, this is not a comparison that comes lightly), Ben’s epic fret work is beyond stunning and it’s impossible to listen to the song without life simply stopping as the build up to his solo arrives.
The second half of the album has a high standard indeed to live up to. However, ‘stay at mine’ does a grand job by upping the tempo and getting the feet tapping. A more restrained moment, ‘you’ve changed’ is another track that sees Ben riffing on Robert Cray with subtle organ flourishes and rippling guitar underpinning the smooth, soulful vocal. ‘Just when you thought it was safe’ (featuring Henrik Freischlader on guitar) is another light track with an addictive melody that will stick in the brain long after the record has reached its end, whilst ‘whoever invented love’ is smooth blues rock song with a stinging solo that blazes out into the night. The album concludes with the slinky ‘the question why’, a track that draws on the blues of Clapton (think the Sting collaboration, ‘it’s probably me’) and Cray and yet has its own unique feel thanks to Ben’s gorgeous guitar work once again referencing Gilmour to add texture. The perfect end to the album, it’s have you reaching for the play button the second it finishes, and it’s hard to believe an hour has passed in the company of this prodigious guitarist and his talented band, so quickly does the time fly.
From the off Ben Poole and his band impress with this outing. Wayne Proctor’s superb rendering of the band in a live environment is undoubtedly part of this, and there’s a natural feel to the music that is so often absent from modern recordings. In this way Ben Poole and his band do a fantastic job of paying tribute to the oft-improvised nature of the early blues recordings and there is a fair argument that, with songs of this calibre, Ben will be joining that pantheon of legends in time. On a more immediate level, ‘time has come’ is a sublime album. Warm, rich and with its own sense of identity, ‘time has come’ is a varied album that pays tribute to Ben’s many influences whilst taking the listener on an endlessly satisfying journey that ensnares the senses from start to finish. In short, ‘time has come’ is an absolute treasure.