"The understated acoustic virtuoso..." - R2 Magazine
"Genuinly creative & brilliantly deft" - Fatea Magazine
"Brilliant, faultless guitar player" - Folk London
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"Outstanding guitarist and songwriter" - Folk Radio UK
"Distinctive, involving, and rather inventive" - fRoots Magazine
"Brilliant fingerstyle guitarist" - The Independent
"Absolutely amazing, just outstanding" - BBC Radio 2
"Immaculate fingerstyle, vocal charm and a talented performer" - Songlines Magazine
Folk London Review
Fatea Magazine Review
Benjamin William Pike
Album: Devil On My Shoulder (EP)
Label: Gin House
This is a quiet little gem that at first rather undersells itself. Begging questions like how come this guy's only just got around to releasing his first record when he's been playing guitar since age 15 (all of 15 years ago) and is clearly at a well-developed stage of accomplishment right now. The EP's five songs are all self-penned, comfortably nestling within a laid-back yet nifty and precise country-blues style that more than anything recalls Chris Smither, with occasional shades of John Martyn in the vocal department.
Benjamin may not quite have Smither's gift for melody, but he displays an intense assurance that's both infectious and compelling in its own unassuming way. His guitar work is both genuinely creative and brilliantly deft, his confident and freewheeling fingerstyle picking punctuated by delicate runs with a folky-oldtime kind of inflection (Guiding Light), while his banjo technique is equally scintillating (Linda) and he's no slouch either on pedal steel or, most especially, the six-string dobro-style lap slide (When I Leave).
Evidently a glutton for musical exploration, Benjamin's latest quest has been to master the 21-string Indian equivalent, the mohan veena, for a forthcoming fusion project on his next release; I can hardly wait! Oh, and by the way, it may come as a surprise to learn that Benjamin's based in Leeds; indeed, together with three local fellow-musicians he's set up an independent roots record label collective to distribute the music of Yorkshire-based roots artists. Even more puzzling, then, that I've not hitherto come across him in the region's music venues.
Devil on My Shoulder
Benjamin William Pike
A debut album from a young singer guitarist. The title and label give a fair hint as to what to expect and indeed there is a strong blues influence in the playing. Two of the five tracks, including the title song, feature BWP solo supported only by his own guitar – and the rawness and authority of the performances confirm he is man worth seeing live (or of course on YouTube). Actually, live with would best – hard not to imagine Guiding Light transforming into a massive singalong, especially in its Band-like coda.
Elsewhere other players provide bass, banjo electric guitar and backing vocals (specially mention for the thrilling harmonies from Kay Chapman on the opening track).
Despite the clear American musical influences, this is a very English album and one is regularly put in mind of young John Martyn, not only in the vocal styling but also in the quality of the songwriting. A debut release should do more than just introduce the artist – it should make you want to hear more and must make you want to play it again. Ben’s album does both these things, absolutely and definitively.
'Devil On My Shoulder' EP reviews
R2 Rock N' Reel Magazine
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