Review: Ben Poole, The Voodoo Rooms

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Ben Poole

The Voodoo Rooms

****

He’s been hailed as one of the most exciting talents to emerge on the scene in recent years, drawing comparisons with Joe Bonamassa and earning the seal of approval from legends Jeff Beck, John Mayall and the late Gary Moore. In short, Ben Poole is the great white hope of UK blues.

But when he takes to the stage dressed in skinny jeans and a grey vest, he resembles a member of the boy band Blue rather than a bona fide blues guitarist. Yet despite looking like he’s come straight from the Topman sale, it takes just a few bars of terrific opener Everything I Want for the 24-year-old to prove his authenticity and his ability.

Displaying some impressive dexterity with his pick as he hammers away at the neck of his guitar, the youngster plays with the assured confidence of someone twice his age. He can sing, too, growling ferociously through the gig, his husky voice sounding like it has spent years soaking in Tennessee bourbon.

All the while, he stands in the shadow cast by the hulking frame of Barry Pethers, whose throbbing, often funky, bass lines anchor the tunes and prevent Poole’s virtuoso showmanship from slipping over into vanity-induced showboating.

With just a handful of self-penned tracks to his name so far, the set is filled with covers of well-known tracks from the likes of Albert Collins, Otis Redding and The Small Faces, but at no stage do his own compositions let the side down. Neither do his takes on those classic tracks, a point best exemplified by the stunning rendition of Jimi Hendrix’s Hey Joe, which sees both guitar and voice move from raw and tender to powerful and explosive in one memorable split-second.

He doesn’t take himself too seriously either, chatting with the appreciative crowd throughout, telling tales about everything from his band mates to embroidered towels. It’s remarkable to see how easily the guitarist builds a rapport with his audience both verbally and musically. He knows just what they want and he sure knows how to give it to them.