Review by: Lana Harris
|| Ash Grunwald has a new live band. He’s recently ditched his kit playing drummers and instead adopted a man who plays a car door with a hammer and an African percussionist. The resulting harmonies of this new musical collaboration are compiled on Grunwald’s latest release Live at the Fly by Night – a full length recording of a show played by the trio at a Fremantle pub late last year. Unlike a lot of live albums which are a compilation of tracks played across many tour venues, this is just one show, and is the second release of this type that Grunwald has produced (Live at the Corner was released in 2008).
The album opens with a wash of pre show noise and slowly building hand drumming that arcs up to a crescendo when Grunwald’s pipes are unleashed, his part African heritage evident in the resonance of his voice. If you’ve not heard Grunwald before, he’s a blues styled man. His vocal style on Live at the Fly by Night conveys emotion and soul in the tradition of great men such as Tom Waits, although on this recording his soul is a hippy’s jubilant run through the forest, rather than a wallow in a darkened mind swamp. The soulful singing and up-tempo beats are best represented on ‘Fish out of Water’ which sounds like John Butler jamming with Waits on a whisky soaked hotel balcony late on a summer’s eve. The depth and range of Grunwald’s singing on ‘Rosie’, where his voice soars and growls without the distraction of accompanying melody and just a spatter of soft drumming behind, it is one of the album’s finest moments.
Throughout the journey a range of percussion instruments are called upon to support Grunwald’s voice, including woodskin cajon, djembes, and the eccentric car door and hammer. The focus is clearly on rhythm – alongside the percussion, the guitar melodies played are often a series of repeated phrases. The drumming, which is more loose and inspired, feels fresh amongst the tighter repetitive melodies.
Lyrics are often repeated as well, with changes in tempo driving the songs to climaxes. The style of pace change is repeated through many of the tracks, which lends a sameness to the tunes once you’ve listened to the whole album a few times through.
Live at the Fly by Night brings funk to the blues, and the resultant combination is a highly danceable recording with sustained vocal interest. The recording boasts a commitment to energetic music, which can’t be said of too many blues based recordings, and gives Grunwald a unique sound. An album to put on when you want to encourage people to get up and dance at a party.
Ash Grunwald site
– Ash Grunwald available at iTunes