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'Trouble's Door'
(Delta Groove)

Phil Kane

phil kane

ash grunwald troubles door

Bit late with this one but where Ash Grunwald is concerned, late is most definitely better than never.

A lesser known member of the surfer roots collective, Grunwald's mainly acoustic sound is old, mean, and over-driven; a down low 'n' dirty, rough arsed bottleneck rootsy surfer blues that grooves like Seasick Steve, snaps and snarls like Mooreland and Arbuckle and smells of Burnside.

When he slackens off he simmers like an earthier G Love but when he cranks it up he motors close to the souped up Gallagher groove. His voice has an almost primeval howl and he plays with a sure footed looseness that is beyond his years (he was born in '76).

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His style has taken bits from all over the place; the old southern cotton field gospel blues (Hank Williams' 'Ramblin' Man' and 'Tellin' Lies'), the riffs and acoustic fills of Gallagher ('What You Had' and 'Shake That Thing') and the hot shimmer of ZZ ('180' and 'Trouble's Door'). Giving a nod towards the great Otis Taylor and The Reverend Peyton, Grunwald's blues is spiky and raw, refusing to be nice and mercifully lacking the polish that gets the average affluent middle aged white blues enthusiast swinging his trousers.

With his lack of age and the attendant experience letting him down a bit, things are not perfect. There is a need for assertiveness that lets a few of the songs just peter out and the album's prickliness is chance to also prove the album's Achilles heel, making the likelihood of 'Trouble's Door' breaking him out of relative obscurity fairly remote but given time and patience, these quibbles will remedy themselves.

Blues, like rock and Metal, has largely got very little left to discover about itself, so it is increasingly down to how it's done rather than what it does and here, Grunwald takes it forward by dipping back into its roots. An Australian kid with a contemporary roots surfer style and a love for raw back woods travelling country blues Americana combine to make him a little special.

Ash Grunwald is one of those rare gifted performers who is just as comfortable playing off the cuff in front of a few people gathered round a camp fire as he is playing a well rehearsed set in front of a Marshal back line for a multitude of pissed up beach bums and stoned out surfers. Check out his raw in-session cover of Bill Withers' 'Grandma's Hands' and you'll see what I mean.

We are currently being bombarded with supposed new hot shot blues six stringers but few come close to the raw vibe of Grunwald's groove, especially those aged south of fifty. The visceral 'Trouble's Door' is not as soulful as some of his previous work but that means little as it remains a nagging bleeding sore on the arse of the laboured and clichéd blandness that seems to pass for the real thing these days.

Ash Grunwald pisses all over the vast majority of today's new breed of blues men (and women) and though he may never achieve Royal Albert Hall status, if there is any righteous justice left down here on Hell's creation he should at least be regarded as one of the blues' iconic figures. Many are those who claim to have been to the crossroads and signed their soul away but in Grunwald's case, it was the Devil who did the signing.

This is an excellent rootsy blues album but watch this space because things are gonna get even better.




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