Ash Grunwald: Trouble's Door (Grunwald/Border)

 |   |  1 min read

Ash Grunwald: Trouble's Door
Ash Grunwald: Trouble's Door (Grunwald/Border)

Australian Grunwald is a one-man dreadlocked folk, rock and boilied-up blues singer-guitarist, and live he certainly delivered well received sets at the recent Womad.

But, as with so many Womad acts, he captures you in the moment but it doesn't quite translate on repeat encounters. I saw both of his sets and was blown away by the first and watched quite dispassionately at a repeat showing when he fired off the same ammunition and rather obvious crowd pleasing manoeuvres.

Still, no one expects musicians to reinvent themselves from one night to the next . . . so you might take that observation/comment as irrelevant and pass on lightly perhaps.

Grunwald -- using percussion loops, and vocal distortion to turn himself into 65-year old black bluesman from a plantation -- has two reference points: at the lower end of his spectrum when he's low and moody you might think of AA Bondy or the slacker blues of early G. Love and Special Sauce. And when he's swallowed gasoline and lit hmself on fire he'd as powerful as George Thorogood and the Destroyers (at their best, not the through-the-motions-George of recent memory) or even the early Black Keys in Detroit blues mode.

That is all good and enjoyable for very different reasons -- if a little obvious sometimes -- but here he also delivers the well intentioned but clumsy Nervous:  "You told me how you can't stand those refugees, spoken like a redneck, you tell me how your forefathers came here on a boat yet you dont see the irony". Written out like that -- and in places in his delivery -- you might actually think "Jemaine Clement", and when it just kind of fades away you are left wondering when the punch was coming.

He also aims for political content on When You Need 'Em which doesn't exactly send you to the barricades. His straight-ahead but plodding Ramblin' Man and What You Had (which also peters out with no great impact) seem weak in the company of exciting material like The Demon in Me (think RL Burnside or T Model Ford being channeled) or the electric chug of the dance-inducing Shake That Thing which open this album. Or the hypnotic Trouble's Door.

So this is uneven and unfortunately places its adrenalin fueled aces up early. Get past the first third and the returns are less convincing or interesting.

Looking for the down and dirty blues? Try this.


Share It

Your Comments

post a comment

More from this section   Blues articles index

Joe Louis Walker's Blues Conspiracy: Live on the Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise (Stony Plain)

Joe Louis Walker's Blues Conspiracy: Live on the Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise (Stony Plain)

That this was recorded on a Caribbean cruise might tell you all you need about its crowd-pleasing nature. But Walker's guests (guitarists Johnny Winter, Tab Benoit and Duke Robillard, Watermelon... > Read more

Hugh Laurie: Didn't It Rain (Warners)

Hugh Laurie: Didn't It Rain (Warners)

Musicians can get very territorial when actors are perceived to be moving into their turf. People like Juliette Lewis, Keanu Reeves and Charlize Theron have hardly been welcomed (sometimes with... > Read more

Elsewhere at Elsewhere

GUEST WRITER OWEN WOOD looks at when genius gets the blues

GUEST WRITER OWEN WOOD looks at when genius gets the blues

The flawed and ultimately doomed genius Truman Capote once wrote, "When God hands you a gift, he also hands you a whip; and the whip is intended solely for self-flagellation". When we... > Read more

Dennis Bovell: Mek It Run (Pressure Sounds)

Dennis Bovell: Mek It Run (Pressure Sounds)

For a very long time from the mid Seventies bassist/producer Dennis Bovell was the go-to guy when British artists wanted an authentic deep dub sound. His work with poet Linton Kewsi Johnson has... > Read more