This band’s moniker may make them sound like a municipal leisure centre but, thankfully, an unassuming supergroup is actually what lies behind the name. BWP are Robin Bennett, Danny George Wilson and Tony Poole. Many readers will know Danny Wilson from his time fronting Grand Drive and Danny & The Champions of the World and some will know Robin Bennett from his work with The Dreaming Spires but BWP’s secret weapon is veteran guitarist and producer Tony Poole. Poole was one half of Starry Eyed and Laughing who released two records in the mid-1970s earning a reputation as the ‘English Byrds’. If you pair Poole’s pedigree, and famed mastery of the 12-string Rickenbacker, with Wilson and Bennet’s background in contemporary harmony-driven Americana you’ll already have a decent idea of where the band are coming from.
Upbeat opener ‘Soon Enough’ sets up the inevitable jangly guitar sound and owes debts in equal measure to The Traveling Wilburys and The Thorns. The track descends into some seriously trippy reverse-guitar shenanigans before the vocals of ‘Ask Me Anything’ put us firmly in Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young territory. Add in some Crazy Horse to the guitar work and some would say you have the perfect combination. ‘Funny Guys’ is easygoing, warm summery pop and will no doubt please fans of Grand Drive. With heavily reverbed electric guitars and soft Hammond, ‘Hide Behind A Smile’ could pass for a cover of a Brill Building classic from the 1960s but, with Wilson’s particularly raggedy vocal delivery and Poole’s oh-so-gentle 12 string guitar solo, the band make it a perfect fit.
Blasting harmonica announces ‘Wilson General Store’ (its title is a nod to Wilson’s ancestral shopkeeping background) which brings us back up to date - that date still being no later than 1975 of course. The story goes that the morning after a particularly productive session with the band, Bennett woke with the song - almost fully formed - playing in his head.
On a more serious note, ‘Hate Won’t Win’ is a proper hippy war cry (by which I mean peace cry of course) inspired by the horrific murder of MP Jo Cox in the summer of 2016. Sonically, with its raging guitars and rallying ‘nah-nah-nahs’ the track is still there in the ‘70s but the subject matter sadly still resonates with our troubled present.
The Mellotron and flipped-out drums of ‘The Other Side of The Sky’ introduce a psychedelic edge and more than a spoonful of late Beatlesey goodness. This feeds in nicely to standout track ‘That Thing That You Call Love’ which opens up like a Roy Orbison classic but is soon bathed in trademark BWP triple vocal toppings. If you’re after some more rock mythology, legend has it that the track started as a small song fragment from Poole that Bennett and Wilson helped to complete in just twenty minutes. Those two songs, along with the fantastic ‘Not Forgetting’ (which features a particularly infectious guitar break from Poole) form a trilogy of gems towards the record’s close that really cements the band’s own character. The totally acoustic and annoyingly chipper ‘Find Your Own Truth’ could have easily ended proceedings but where would an album such as this be without its hazy seven-minutes-and-forty-five-seconds-complete-with-seemingly-interminable-guitar-jam epic? Exactly: nowhere. The aptly titled ‘Lifeboat’ sees Bennett Wilson Poole floating out on an ocean of pure indulgence. This is the sort of music that swirls in your brain if you fall asleep on a blisteringly hot afternoon while your copy of Déjà Vu skips on the turntable.
Bennett Wilson Poole have obviously poured a lot of love into this record and had oodles of fun in the process. The album harks back to the flower-power age but has enough of its own personality to prevent it feeling like pure pastiche. The result is a particular brand of gentle (and very English-sounding) Americana, soaked in the sounds of the ‘60s and ‘70s but informed by every revival since. If summer ever arrives, this will surely be the perfect soundtrack to it.
Review by Rich Barnard
Bennett Wilson Poole is released April 6th on Aurora Records via Proper Distribution.
Bennett Wilson Poole will be playing the Ramblin' Roots Revue on Sunday 8th April. Full details of the festival are here