What’s The Rockbrat Listening To Today? GWYN ASHTON, CHRIS FINNEN & PETER BEULKE – Ragas, Jugs & Mojo Hands (2016)

Posted: October 25, 2016 by Cowboy Col in What's The Rockbrat Listening To Today ?
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ragas-coverRajas, Jugs and Mojo Hands is the new album from the Australia’s best guitar player Gwyn Ashton (sorry Tommy, sorry Phil – I still love ya both) and is a collaborative effort between Gwyn, long-time friend and musical mentor Chris Finnen, and stalwart Peter Beulke on bass. Finnen has shared the stage with some of the world’s best, including Buddy Guy, Bo Diddley, Jimmy Witherspoon, Roy Buchanan, Eric Burdon and Keb Mo. Is an introduction to the great Gwyn Ashton really necessary ? For those who weren’t paying attention the first time, Gwyn Ashton has spent the past 30 years touring Australia and Europe, recording with some of the biggest names in blues and rock including musicians from Deep Purple, Robert Plant’s and Rory Gallagher’s bands and touring with the likes of Buddy Guy, Mick Taylor, Peter Green and many more. Much of Gwyn’s material on this new album he wrote while on the road in Poland, the Czech Republic and the UK. How to describe Rajas, Jugs and Mojo Hands? If you are thinking down-the-line Delta or Chicago blues – think again.  Sure, there is evidence of that, but what sets this album apart is the way that Ashton and Finnen weave other musical sounds/influences into the mix – from Indian/Eastern, Arabic and African sounds – and all work amazingly well with the sound of dual National resonators. Throw in equal parts Ashton’s and Finnen’s unique Australian flavors, and you end up with a roots/blues cocktail like no other.  ‘I Can Feel That Mojo Working On Me’ is the ideal opener. Beyond catchy, tasteful slide, catchy chorus, with Indian/Eastern influences set to a Deep South blues groove – man can Gwyn Ashton write a tune. He sure has his mojo going on with this one. This song segues effortlessly into the second track, the all instrumental, Eastern influenced ‘Moravian Rhapsody’ – which is in many ways, a companion piece to the opening track, with the appealing slide resonator guitars up front and foremost. Super catchy, and would no doubt get the nod of approval from George Harrison. ‘Duchcov’, an ode to the Czech Republic town that sits at the foot of the Ore Mountains, is a strikingly atmospheric instrumental that scores big points –  highlighted by subtle playing, fingers delicately finessing strings, and melody galore.  Blues purists will love ‘Lonesome Road’ and ‘Givin Up The Church’, both great slabs of traditional blues played and sung the Finnen way – complete with a wry sense of humour. With its lyrical sexual innuendos, ‘Keep Your Oven Warm’ would no doubt bring a smile to the face of Blind Lemon Jefferson. Keep your jam tart sticky, so I can lick my fingers clean J. There’s an authenticity about all those old blues guys that does not diminish with time  – and that’s what so many people love about the blues. I’m here to tell you folks that Chris Finnen has that same blues authenticity in spades. The album closes with the Eastern sounding instrumental ‘Migration’, a glorious cacophony of sympathetic strings and slide guitar set with Shankar-like ambience. Top shelf. If I’m forced to pick, my personal fave is ‘Who’s That Knockin’, a sing along ditty with catchy chorus that reminds me a lot of ‘On The Beach’ era Neil Young. That’s a good thing folks!  What’s great about this album is that is that it was recorded over two evenings with no rehearsal or pre-production. Everything was recorded live, first or second take, on acoustic guitars and National resonators, with Ashton also on Weissenborn, and Finnen adding chumbush, darbuka, cajon, clay pot and banjo into the mix. Just goes to show you what happens when musical chemistry exists between truly great players. The result is surely one of the best blues/roots albums to come out of Australia in recent years. 10 out of 10. Buy it from Fab Tone Records, or head to Gwyn Ashton’s web site here. You can also check out the official promo video for the album here.

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Comments
  1. Pete B. says:

    Thanks for the review,but how about the bass holding all these wonderful ditties together,what really annoys me is, so many times ,you read a review and the bass player ,playing is ignored ,it pisses me of ,,Pete

  2. Pete B says:

    And yes ive have also played with alot of the blues greats, Taj Mahal, DrJohn,John Mayall, Jimmy Witherspoon, thats just to start with, I know after 50years of playin my arse of all over the place,world,im still just the bass player ,PB

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