GWYN ASHTON is a Rock Blues guitarist who had somehow escaped my attention over the years, despite him playing in Band of Friends, the Rory Gallagher memorial band that featured the Great Man’s rhythm section of Gerry McAvoy and Brendan O’Neill.
On top of that, an earlier album ‘Prohibition’ also featured Chris Glen and Ted McKenna from The Sensational Alex Harvey Band (with Ted also playing drums for Rory for several years.)
So GWYN has played alongside some of my all-time favourite (God-like even) band members! I really need to read my Classic Rock magazine in more depth!
Right – so now we (I!) know more about his obvious pedigree, let’s have a look at what the new album ‘Radiogram’ has to offer: firstly, there are no more Rory Gallagher connections that I can see, but once again GWYN has surrounded himself with a kind of ‘Who’s Who’ of the Rock world. The diverse guest artist roster includes: Don Airey (Deep Purple, Whitesnake, Rainbow, Black Sabbath); Kim Wilson (Fabulous Thunderbirds); Robbie Blunt (Robert Plant, Bronco, Silverhead); Johnny Maestro (LA’s Mama’s Boys); Mark Stanway (Magnum, Phil Lynott) and Mo Birch (UB40, Go West and Culture Club.)
We should also not forget GWYN’s stalwart drummer Kev Hickman who has been the backbone of the European touring duo for the past three years.
(I wouldn’t normally mention all these individuals, but do so to highlight to those like me who have been missing out for so long, that GWYN ASHTON is quite obviously a guitar force with whom so many quality musicians wish to be associated.)
The album opens with the current single, ‘Little Girl,’ the video for which was featured on LOUD HORIZON recently, and is again posted below. ‘Don’t Wanna Fall’ follows on, and like its predecessor is basically a Rock-Blues track, with the accent more on the ‘Rock,’ side. It’s a big and booming full-on sound, alternating from the quieter verses to crashing choruses.
Much as I like the first two tracks, the album for me ‘starts’ with the third track in, ‘Let Me In.’ This one is still very much upbeat, but is less ‘cluttered’ in sound and has a sharper resonance. It’s also weighted more to the ‘Blues’ side and gives a good deal of prominence to the harmonica blowing.
‘Fortunate Kind,’ slows down on the pace and is a lot more ‘moody.’ The twangs of the pedal-steel guitar blend delightfully with a quiet Hammond organ to create a sort of Country Blues sound – the kind of track you’d have expected from early Lynryd Skynyrd, perhaps.
‘I Just Wanna Make Love To You,’ is a great version of Willie Dixon classic. The guitar playing bursts in really early and is of the Robin Trower kind of style, whilst the overall feel I get, when considering the vocal delivery, is more Hendrix styled. ‘Dog Eat Dog,’ again has lovely ‘clean’ blues playing coupled with growled vocals. The guitar may be ‘clean’ but the ‘feel’ is real ‘down and dirty.’
The final four tracks provide two of the best on the album – indeed, two that would rank up with some of my favourite ever! The first of these is a superb version of the Jimi Hendrix classic, ‘Angel.’ Now, I’m not a Hendrix fan as such (I actually think he was vastly overrated … discuss..) and preferred Rod Stewart’s (and The Faces) version, but this one really blows me away. At over seven minutes in length there is plenty room for GWYN to express himself … and boy, does he do it ever so well!
‘For Your Love,’ unfortunately suffers a little for being placed in between two of the strongest tracks on ‘Radiogram,’ but still delivers a mean and moody groove with a sort of haunting, if noisy, sing-a-long backing.
‘Comin’ Home,’ continues that feel, but with a chugging refrain. It’s classic blues-rock with riffs aplenty, guaranteed to get your feet moving. Brilliant.
But GWYN has kept the best for last. For me, Rory Gallagher was (and still is) my music God. But up there with him in my list of guitar ‘greats’ is Roy Buchanan. And interestingly, the album’s closing track ‘Bluz For Roy,’ combines the sound of both! Obviously, it’s more to do with Roy, but after just a minute, the short, sharp guitar shards are most definitely from the Rory school of playing.
But once GWYN reaches past the two and a half minute mark, the remaining four and a half succeed in replicating the shrill guitar-picking of one of the most under-rated guitar players ever in the late Roy Buchanan. He was one of the best at making his guitar whine to replicate his own inner pains and if I were to illustrate how good this album is, I would simply point to this track!
(Footnote: I’m no expert, but the guitar featured on the back cover of album -and which Gwyn is playing on the front – looks pretty familiar …..)
(Released through Fab Tone Records on 22nd October 2012)
(9.5 / 10)