BLONDE-HAIRED, baby-faced, sporting large biceps and even larger tattoos. If looks are anything to go by, you might think Ben Poole was some bland, suspiciously scrubbed boy-band member. The 24-year-old, however, is, in fact - get this - a bluesman. No, really, he is.
Poole’s designer shirts and polished Colgate-smile might not fit the archetypal image of a black, hard-living vagabond wandering a lonely trail through the Mississippi Delta. But, take a listen to his fiery blues-guitar playing, and you’d swear this young white-boy made a deal with the Devil on some Tennessee crossroads.
Check this out for yourself when the young buck brings his Brighton-based trio to the Voodoo Rooms on Wednesday as part of a nationwide, tour. However, blues-rock’s latest poster-boy has a word of warning to any serious blues aficionados in the audience.
“I’m not a blues purist by any means,” he quickly points out. “I mean, I play electric blues in the same vein as Cream, Jimi Hendrix and Rory Gallagher - but the band is more like an old-school powerhouse trio.
“The roots are most definitely blues, but we have elements of funk and soul in there, too. We’re very rock-orientated.”
A firm fixture on the pages of Total Guitar magazine and with two awards - Best Young Artist and Best Original Song - from the 2011 British Blues Awards under his belt, Poole has certainly made a bit of a name for himself since picking up the guitar at the age of nine.
He’s appeared alongside Aerosmith; was one of the first unsigned artists to appear at Glastonbury; and has toured abroad on the blues circuit.
Now, though, he’s stepping out of the shadows. Instead of backing other artists, he’s fronting his own group. It’s been a struggle, Poole admits, but well worth it now he’s making a living from his music.
“I’m finally getting to the point where I can earn enough money to sustain myself from playing music. It’s been a while coming, sure, but I’ve been working towards it all my life. I’m a side-man no more. Now I’m doing my own thing.”
Poole’s biggest claim to fame is getting to play alongside his heroes Gary Moore and Jeff Beck - some of the biggest names in blues-rock ever. After jamming with Poole, Beck said he ‘really loved’ his young protege’s playing, going so far as to call it ‘amazing’. Mighty praise indeed from one of the masters of guitar.
“I studied for a modern music degree in Brighton and it was there that I made a lot of contacts,” says Poole, a fine singer as well a nifty guitarist.
“Jeff Beck was in town to do a master class and I was fortunate enough to get up onstage and play alongside him. I was also one of the last people to play with Gary Moore before he died. During that time, I got to know him so that’s something that will always remain close to my heart.”
Although touring is nothing new to the virtuoso, the idea of travelling up and down the country in the back of a van over 17 dates doesn’t fill Poole with much joy.
That said, he’s very much looking forward to reacquainting himself with Edinburgh.
“Obviously, being stuck in traffic in the rear end of a van isn’t much fun when you’ve been travelling for ten hours, but when you’ve got your close friends with you it’s not so bad.
“A lot of people think it’s the high life, but it’s not. The best thing, for me, is playing for 90 minutes a night and getting to meet new people and fans along the way.
“I was up in Edinburgh last March when I played The Caves with another artist and immediately took to the city. I love the place.”
With an EP already out, and his debut album currently in the works, Poole is already being compared to the likes of blues star Joe Bonamassa and stunt-guitar wizard, Joe Satriani.
However, for someone who has the potential to become a future guitar great, Poole is keeping his feet firmly on the ground.
“I’ve met and played with some great people. When I first played in Germany, I was greeted with a big glass of champagne and put up in a fancy hotel. But the main thing at the moment is getting the album sorted for a release next year in time for another UK tour.
“I’m just looking forward to playing new songs, and hopefully seeing a lot of people at gigs - everyone’s welcome to come along and have a chat.”
Ben Poole Band, The Voodoo Rooms, West Register Street, Wednesday, 7.15pm, £7, 0131-556 7060