With endorsement from several major guitar companies and counting the likes of John Mayer among his fans, Ariel Posen is still something of an undiscovered gem in the UK.
Toting virtuosic speed with soulful blues and slide playing, he is likely one of the most gifted guitar players in the industry right now, proficient in many styles in a fashion only equalled by the likes of Blake Mills, his lo-fi Californian equivalent.
Since splitting from his role as backing guitar for The Brothers Landreth, Posen released his critically acclaimed debut “How Long” in January 2019 and by the end of the year was named the 9th best guitarist in the world by Music Radar.
This gig marked his second appearance in Edinburgh in just under a year. He has spent a significant part of the time in-between on the road across the western world, traversing Europe, the UK, Ireland, Canada and the USA. These road miles are apparent as he and his band of two others – bass and drums, could not be tighter. Despite playing more modest venues in the UK than he would back home in Canada, Ariel is clearly still very happy to be playing to a busy room, whatever the size.
The “Live and Personal” tour he is currently on is something of a stopgap between albums. From traditional blues, through country and all the way to gritty hard rock, this gig is Posen thrashing through his debut with the confidence of its commercial and critical success, while also testing out material from his upcoming second album – which is pretty well formed by what he is saying. Playing a handful of new tracks, most notably “It’s You”, which has upbeat shades of Americana and a lead guitar not a million miles from The Allman Brothers. Posen is evolving as a songwriter and it will be interesting to see how his second album differs when it’s released.
There are great vocal harmonies from very understated bass and drums, namely Eoin Walsh and Davie Ryan. These demanding duties are normally handled by a much bigger band, but this is absolutely not an issue because of Posen’s constant guitar manipulation, via pedals, unusual techniques and his excellent voice, filling a sound that many more people fulfil on his actual recordings.
His soloing is a little indulgent at times, but his skills are impossible to question. He holds the attention of the audience with even his very quiet and graceful guitar playing – in a somewhat hectic venue. “Get You Back” is Posen in his element and the centrepiece of the gig – free to indulge in whatever is going on in his head at that moment, from borderline prog to Hendrix style fuzz and wild bends, all in about 7 minutes. It’s here we’re reminded that it’s a privilege that a player of this standard is stood where he is and still enjoying himself.
Finishing with a cover of John Martyn’s “Angeline” in a style that bounces between Jeff Buckley and John Mayer went down a treat and left a very satisfied room, though the crowd would’ve taken his music long into the night if only he’d keep playing. This is clear evidence of a man who, even in his mid-30s, has already spent a lifetime as a performer and knows his audience will be back next time because of it.