Blues can come in many shades and sounds, and if your preference is traditional down and dirty blues, or guitars that can bring a tear to a glass eye, then Ben Poole’s’ latest album ‘Anytime You Need Me’ will either be way out of your comfort zone, or just maybe, it will open the door for your senses to appreciate a more modern upbeat interpretation of how the next generation of musicians can ‘get’ the blues.
Ben Poole is certainly not short of talent in his own right, but bringing in a couple of co- writers for this album was an inspired choice, especially when they are a four times winner of Blues Drummer of the Year, Wayne Proctor, and prolific writer/producer Steve Wright. Collaborating together to produce seven new tracks, and throwing in a few covers which have been given a make-over by Poole and co, this is a modern, funked up blues album due out on 14th September.
With a voice that is far too clean cut sounding for traditional blues, the album opens with title track ‘Anytime You Need Me’. Poole brings an upbeat, almost pop sound to his music, until that is, he breaks for a good old fashioned off the cuff guitar solo. This track was specifically written to be a feel-good appreciation of friends and family, and the support network they can bring. The second track, ‘Take it no More’ is the complete opposite of the previous. This time it opens with a grungy fuzzy guitar riff before slipping into a radio friendly chorus, with a voice that wouldn’t be out of place in a teenage boyband. But the guitar work is much more prevalent in this track to remind the listener that this is no talent show contestant, but a hard working blues man doing what he does best.
This contrasting style and genre is running very strong through the album, and the opening bars of ‘You Could Say’ is like a mash up of the Doobie Brothers guitar, and Climie Fisher on vocals. But again about half way through the track, the blues guitar re-emerges, and Poole manages to stamp his own sound all over this.
The ‘80s vibe and feel to the album continues with a taste of Crowded House in the intro to ‘Found Out The Hard Way’. By doing his own harmonies and backing vocals, Poole softens his tone even further, and by keeping the chords and beat simple, this becomes a chilled out, laid back track with just enough lead guitar in the right places to remind us where the roots of this music really come from.
The fuzzy guitar makes a comeback throughout ‘Further On Down The Line’, and with the keyboard giving a seventies throwback sound to the track, Poole’s vocals suit the funkier beat, but it’s Poole’s guitar work that makes this track stand out as a modern blues classic.
The next three tracks are the only ones not co-written by the dynamic trio. ‘Dirty Laundry’ is an updated version of the tongue in cheek critique of the ‘80s news media, which was a hit for Don
Henley, and all the more pertinent with todays explosion of news on social media. The second track covered is Jude Cole’s big band sounding ‘Start the Car’. Poole has mellowed this song slightly by
dispensing with the horns, which makes it fit in well with the rest of this album, but it lacks the punch of the original version, even with the two well-crafted solos squeezed in.
Final track of the three covers, ‘Don’t Cry For Me’ was one Steve Wright originally recorded in 2013, and the track is quite different from the rest of the album, probably due to Wrights influence. With less funk and more blues this is a deep soulful ballad that the whole band pulls off smoothly.
The final two tracks were described as the heavier songs on the album, but like the lyrics on ‘Let me Be’, let’s agree to disagree, as apart from the intro riffs, this is not what I class as heavy. And the same can be said for closing track ‘Holding On’. I’d have loved to hear a bigger sound from Proctors drum kit, as the rhythm section seems to be holding back on most of this album, as if they are allowing Poole’s guitar to do the work, backed up instead by the keyboards.
All in all, an enjoyable album to listen to, with its mixture of sounds spanning the ‘70s and ‘80s, blues, funk and pop all rolled in together, it will be interesting how it all comes out on stage when they tour in the UK this winter.
Anytime You Need Me
Take It No More
You Could Say
Found Out The Hard Way
Further On Down The Line
Start The Car
Don’t Cry For Me
Let Me Be
Ben Poole - Guitars, Vocals
Wayne Proctor - Drums
Beau Barnard - Bass
Ross Stanley - Hammond, Wurlitzer, Piano, Synth