Authenticity, not a word you hear too much these days, particularly in a musical context. So the thought of one voice, an old Ashdown guitar that looks like it was found in a lake and a minimal drum kit is something that seemed worth checking out. The voice and the guitar in this case belonged to Gwyn Ashton, a blues player in the old traditions, king of the road who if you cut him would yield not blood but the sedimented waters of the Mississippi delta. If you remember Micky Barker from his times as drummer with pomp-rockers Magnum then this would seem a world away as his stripped down kit showed that a great drummer can be as expressive on a minimal set up as he can when playing up to the full excesses of stadium rock. The fact that the two men hadn’t even rehearsed together was even more of a testament for what was to come.
And what did come was a wonderful raw and passionate set of blues standards and originals that just seemed to exist between the lines of Harper Lee’s famous imagining of the south or as a would be soundtrack to a road movie along the Mason-Dixon line. And if standards don’t seem to be that appealing, the joy of Gywns work is that he likes to re-style songs to make something new, such as Hendrix’s Fire being delivered as Howling Wolf might have written it. Blues mash ups may just be the way forward.
I’m not by any means a blues aficionado, but maybe I have been put off by too many pub blues wannabees who have learned the songs parrot fashion but are unable to imbue the songs with the right amount of passion and drive. Gywn doesn’t suffer from that problem; his music sits on what many may see as the punked out edge of the genre, but not sacrificing substance for style either. These were players at the top of their game, the fact that they were playing within walking distance of my house in a free pub gig another testament to their grounded attitude.
With a new album featuring a who’s who of rock and blues icons, Radiogram, on its way in October now is a good time to get into Gwyn’s music, so in the mean time check out the link below for the full band side of his work.
A full set of photographs from the night can be found here courtesy of Georgina Ingrams.