Benjamin Vo – Poor Sam
Self-Release – 2023
10 tracks; 43 minutes
Benjamin Vo is a young guitarist from Pennsylvania. This album arrived without any information apart from the track list and the fact that the songs were all written by Benjamin. Not a lot to go on, but a quick surf on the internet revealed that the musicians involved were Benjamin on guitar and vocals, François Byers on piano, Jeff Pickel on bass, Joel Stoltzfos on drums; Peter Wile McKibben adds harmonica to one track.
The overall style is stripped back electric blues, typified by opener “Looking For My Baby” which sounds like early Fleetwood Mac as Benjamin delivers the mournful vocals over steady drums, bass and piano, adding stinging piano to good effect and François playing strongly towards the end of the track. “Weeping And Praying” is a stripped back solo acoustic performance on what sounds like a National Steel guitar before a fine slow blues, “Sweet Like Honey” on which Benjamin pays tribute to his lady while playing some lovely licks. Slide guitar gives “I Wonder Why” a Delta feel, another solo piece, well done on the steel guitar. “Wiggly Worm” is a short solo guitar instrumental which shows Benjamin’s picking abilities and acts as a sort of half-way point in the album. The full band is on hand for the lugubrious slow blues “Let Me Die With A Smile”, Benjamin’s guitar lines adding just the right tone of sadness to fit the title; the longest track on the album, this one is a great vehicle for Benjamin’s playing; check out the echoey guitar around the five minute mark, another trademark Peter Green styling.
Benjamin gives us another instrumental, “Poor Sam”, which starts solo acoustic but the band then comes in and the fast-paced section rockets along with François’ piano leading the charge – a fun cut. Back to less cheerful stuff with “Hospital Bed Blues”, another beautifully poised slow blues with sad lyrics over a tune that recalls “Need Your Love So Bad”, Benjamin’s guitar also carrying that feel; his solo here is particularly well done. “Wer Willy” rocks things up a bit, the drums and percussion leading into a New Orleans beat with the guest harmonica adding a different sound to the track. The lyrics are fairly minimal but will probably be enough to make it a track not for radio – you can use your imagination from the title! The album closes with “Gray In White”, another instrumental, again solo acoustic but more in folk style, providing a different side to Benjmin’s playing.
Peter Green is clearly a strong influence on Benjamin’s playing and throughout the disc you can hear echoes of Green’s clean and eloquent phrasing. I enjoyed the disc a lot and so will anyone who enjoys the original Fleetwood Mac.