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Essential Acoustic Album

Acoustic Magazine, May 2011

Fans of Pierre Bensusan and Michael Hedges will find much to admire in the debut of this Bath-based acoustic wizard. Featuring a dozen originals and the welcome stylistic cuckoo in the nest of Anne Dudley's ragtimey theme from Jeeves and Wooster, this is an impressive statement of intent. The DADGAD tuning maintained throughout lends inevitable Celtic echoes, but with his fine, clean technique, Powell constantly searches for the rhythmic and melodic variation (occasionally veering into intricate, percussive, raga territory) that keeps the material fresh and successfully avoids the 'samey' trap the genre can often carry with it. The lovely 'Pashmina' and 'Nightwalking Monteverde' are both standouts, during which the focus is clearly on melody above technique, and it pays off beautifully., December 2010

"Preliminaries" introduces the exceptional talents of Ben Powell, a virtuoso of sensitivity and intelligence whose superb playing, compositions, and exquisite tone prove him to be a true heir to fingerstyle giants Michael Hedges and Pierre Bensusan. Powell's debut CD features 12 original compositions that are highly melodic yet intricate, subtly stuffed with unexpected changes of key and meter, dronelike effects, hints of Django Reinhardt jazz, or of mid-Eastern modalities, as on the sublime "Reflections." His pieces are inspired by a sense of place, many in India and Tibet, and an aura of spirituality is palpable ("Bhagsu Road"; "Pashima").

One of the most beautiful offerings is "Nightwalking Monteverde," a moody introspective ode to a night walk in Rome that shimmers with deep feeling. The pieces range stylistically from the wistful and dreamy ("The Village"; "February") to the energetic and propulsive ("Subika"), its driving quality gained by repeated arpeggiated passages. Powell doesn't indulge in many flashy displays, though he clearly could, as evidenced in his arrangement of "Theme for Jeeves and Wooster" (Anne Dudley) with its wickedly fast runs. Powell is more interested in communicating a coherent musical vision, and the result is a gorgeous meditation, at once ethereal and earthy.
© Celine Keating

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Guitar Techniques, January 2011

'There’s an unmistakable Pierre Bensusan influence to this collection of beautiful acoustic guitar instrumentals. But Ben Powell has a style which is very much his own – something that becomes ever more obvious as he steers his trusty Lowden O25 through 13 wonderfully recorded tracks on this, his debut CD.

Using DADGAD as his home tuning, Ben eschews the current percussive acoustic school of taps and slaps in favour of concentrating on pure melody and mature composition; this being immediately evident on tracks like Farewell Ladakh and the CD’s opener, The Village. Ben describes himself as a musical travel writer, all his melodies being inextricably linked to places he’s visited and people he’s met along the way. This adds together to offer up a rich, interesting and diverse platter of musical style, all tied together by an enviable mastery of tone and technique. Without doubt a player to watch out for.'

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