Changing focus from LA to Merseyside, Bennett Wilson Poole’s second album confirms their status as one of the best UK Americana acts around right now.
From humble beginnings as a one off collaborative effort between three very talented musicians, Bennett Wilson Poole grew legs from the start. The eponymous debut album was universally acclaimed (achieving “classic” status after only five years) and this was followed by a succession of live shows which, if anything, were even more lauded as the trio went on to win the 2019 UK Artist Of The Year award at the AMAUK’s.
Buoyed by this success, the trio, (Robin Bennett from Goldrush/Dreaming Spires, Danny Wilson from Grand Drive / Danny & The Champions Of The World and Tony Poole, Starry Eyed & Laughing – just in case you’ve been living on Mars for the past few years) decided to embark on a second album with Bennett and Wilson finding their songwriting juices in full flow while on the road. With studio maestro Poole at the helm they recorded the songs for ‘I Saw A Star Behind Your Eyes, Don’t Let It Die Away’ in 2020, just as the pandemic hit. As on the first album, Poole plays many of the instruments but on several songs the trio are bolstered by the inclusion of their live rhythm section, Joe Bennett and Fin Kenny.
While the first album drank deep from the well of early 70s LA harmony rock (especially that of CSN&Y), ‘I Saw A Star Behind Your Eyes, Don’t Let It Die Away’ is clearly inspired by an earlier era, that of the early Beatles sound and the nascent buds of UK psychedelia while still retaining an element of west coast rock, in particular, the Clarence White line up of The Byrds. America, the country, its absurdities, its aspirations, its culture, retains its hold on these three quintessentially English chaps, most evident on the litany of characters referenced in the stunning ‘I Wanna Love You (But I Can’t Right Now)’, a song which rings out with disdain for Trumpism. A hazy Byrds’ like drone, punctuated by freak beat guitar breaks and billowing solos from Poole, the song is a triumph (and the accompanying video brilliantly emphasises the trio’s message).
The album opens with the Merseybeat chimes of ‘I Saw Love’ with our three honorary moptops avoiding any sense of being a Rutles’ like pastiche, especially when Poole lays down an exquisite solo on his Telecaster Stringbender. There’s also more than a whiff of the Liverpudlians in the fluid guitar riffs of ‘Ready To Serve’ but it’s the harmonies here which are quite astonishing, the three voices gliding clear of the instruments for a few gorgeous moments mid-song, while the lyrics again serve as a reminder not to blindly follow populist leaders. The crux of this plea to think for oneself is concentrated within the gossamer-like ‘Help Me See My Way’ where Robin Bennett sings beautifully and the band are luminescent as the song flows, oh so sweetly, ending in a lovely guitar nod to Wooden Ships.
All the songs here tumble out quite wonderfully, fully formed and full of love for the most part. ‘Waiting For The Waves To Break’ is BWP coming across like The Travelling Wilburys with all three taking turns on vocals while riding on a grand Beatles/Wilburys like melody. ‘Cry At The Movies’ finds Wilson’s character bemoaning the demise the silver screen as the trio play a Beatles/Byrds/Bakerfield sound backing. He’s more savage when he sings about daytime TV makeover shows on ‘Tie-Dye T-Shirt’, a song which might owe just a little bit too much to a certain Who number at times but one which would probably go down a storm live, partly due to that Who element but mainly due to its sheer drive, the closing harmonies and Poole’s inspired Rickenbacker, spiralling towards the end. ‘Heartsongs’ is the yin to the opening number’s Merseybeat yan. It’s suffused with the bucolic charms of latter-day Beatles circa ‘The White Album’.
The album closes on a powerful note as Robin Bennett, on piano and vocals, leads the trio into the heartfelt and moving ‘The Sea And The Shore’. Singing, “I cannot subscribe to the views of the man wearing union jack shoes, the grinning faces of hate who smile as they’re closing the gate,” there’s no disguising that Bennett Wilson Poole are still fired with the indignation which first ignited within them when they wrote ‘Hate Won’t Win’. The fact that they are able to create beauty from such raw material is testament to their humanity and their talent and, by channelling that wave of optimism which fuelled much the 60s counterculture, they ultimately remind all of us that “Love may not be ALL you need, but it’s absolutely the basis for everything.”
If its anything like as good as their debut it will be brilliant!