Fab Tone 2019
To Oz and back again, guitar slinger par excellence plugs in to go acoustic and deliver no-frills thrills.
Mr. Ashton should be one of the most valuable Australian exports, only mass recognition somehow shuns this artist – undeservedly so – despite him touring as a one-man band all over the world. Gwyn’s ninth record doesn’t stick to a solo mode, still: it’s a work by a duo which gave the album its title and sees, alongside the leader, FRATERNITY’s John Freeman laying down the beat in a studio (as preserved for posterity here) and WINGS’ Geoff Britton on-stage. Yet the rawness of the nine songs on offer will render their effort quite personal.
Unlike 2013’s EP "Fistful Of Blues" whose title also referenced Gwyn’s chosen genre, “Preachers” is a very dry album, in aural terms, his parchment-like vocals shedding sensual ballast and stripping emotions down to bare essentials – in the vein of old masters. Not for nothing a clock-shaped rhythm and acoustic gloom infuse “Soul For Sale” with timeless sentiment without revisiting crossroads, although the bulging groove and withdrawn licks which carry “Take Yourself Away” have a modern jive going about them. He’s not averse to little rapping either, what with “If I Don’t Feel It” pushing Ashton’s usual voice to the fore, but the infectious “She’s Lost Her Power” would look at the “spell on you” from a different angle.
There’s little more than a rattlesnake riff and thinly wailed menace to “She’s What I Like” that roars ‘n’ rolls before breaking into a unison-driven chorus and lifting the dark veil for a rough, if filigree, solo, while the blend of seductive twang and sweet harmonies in “Candy Store” is creepily playful. Yet whereas the self-critical “The Old Fool” feels tasty in its elegant countrified lace, the heavy allure of hysterical steel behind “Fool In Your Life” sounds simply irresistible – up to the call-and-response which must put the listener out of their misery, because it’s a killer cut. The traditional tropes filling “Waiting Game” run even deeper to set the scene for another spin of this record in the most cathartic way and let understated grandeur make “Preachers” a potent pretender for the Blues Album of the Year accolades.
Perhaps, mass recognition is still in the cards.