The support tonight at The Garage, Swansea; came from Aberystwyth based ‘Big Joe Bone’, who brings charming authenticity to his style of the blues whether playing his self-penned numbers or covers. His rendition of Blind Willie Johnson’s number Dark Was The Night, Cold Was The Ground using his deft skills on the slide guitar, Big Joe Bone ensured the audience remained engaged with friendly chatter and in addition to his guitar percussive stomp box and harmonica. This definitely pleased the crowds in Swansea who enjoyed some Delta Blues Classics. His self-penned numbers had the same feel as the classics the rhythms driving the songs were the same, the difference came in the lyrics still about, love lost, poverty and work but given a modern rebalance. What a great start to the evening where we were celebrating the joy of live-music and Richie who runs The Garage Blues Club as it was his birthday with a suitable decorated cake – which was cut and handed out in the interval.
So after cake and a short break Gwyn Ashton, in solo guise tonight, opening his latest tour of UK, a new venture for Gwyn as a solo artist with impact and trying to break the boundaries between a solo act and a band. He definitely achieves this from what was heard tonight, this is more than man, lyrics and guitar we had a selection of different guitars with a range of tones including a rarely seen let alone heard James Trussart Steelphonic, which delivers a delicious tone that is a combination of electric and resonator giving a depth of character to the tracks played. Into the mix of guitars was a Tokai 335 guitar who endorse Gwyn, a 12 string, a Strat and a 1931 National Duolian and bass drum the instrumentation may be stripped down the sound is definitely not restrained or contained. This is volume turned up and the tempo raised he treated everyone to some rough-edged in-your-face blues. A lot of standards interspersed his self-penned music, this was no cover band as all the ‘standards’ were given the distinctive Ashton treatment and this gives them a new vitality and makes you really sit-up and listen; and realising why these great songs are deemed as classics. The covers included a wonderful version of Willie Dixon’s, ‘Just Want To Make Love To You’ and Robert Johnson’s ’32-20 Blues’ using his wonderful James Trussart Steelphonic and slide; these were fresh and not the oft stale not for mere recreations of the originals and really worked not just for me but the rest of the audience. But the cover that really excited the audience was Rory Gallagher’s, ‘Out on A Western Plain’ wow what a version. Next we were treated to Gwyn sitting down and Hawaiian Weissenborn lap slide guitar changing the rhythm and tones delivered then change of musical texture again with a twelve-string with The Guitar Town from his “Prohibition” album, Gwyn used the evening to showcase the diversity of sounds he can deliver and the wonderful tracks on his various albums. His latest album Radiogram featured heavily, with numbers including ‘Dog Eat Dog, ‘Comin’ Home’ and ‘Angel’ leaving people wanting to add this music to their collection. Gwyn achieved this with his great playing and not heavy self-promotion of the album. Gwyn is a true master of using effects to enhance and not overwhelm the music as seen when including the art of creative loop, octave dividers and fuzz guitar, creating true layers of sound and interest to the Gwyn Ashton sound, this solo act has achieved what many bands can muster. Everyone at The Garage left knowing that they had been entertained by a sublime artist, this was a birthday bash that Richie will remember for a long time as tonight was not a display of guitars for people to admire it was all about the music, live energetic blues played with verve and full of vim & vigour. This is blues that is just that little bit different, acoustic with loads of impact creating an atmosphere that is energizing.
Quote from a happy visitor to The Garage “Gwyn Ashton, what a memorable show of outstanding musicianship. As Gwyn said early on in the performance, “anyone who has come thinking it would be an acoustic session, you have picked the wrong night!”
The sound Gwyn generated on his own, for almost two hours, with his impressive range of guitars, together with a harmonica and Bill Ward’s bass drum, demonstrated an amazing talent. “