Seems that just about every other week we hear about some new American blues player that is going to be the “next big thing” in the blues world, the “next Joe Bonamassa”. But without all the fanfare and the bragging, there are a fair amount of British blues players creating their own buzz. The Nimmo brothers, Aaron Keylock, Laurence Jones, and Aynsley Lister being just a handful. Lincolnshire’s Ash Wilson has the chops to be the latest name to be added to that list. It’s a terribly British trait to not blow one’s own trumpet, but perhaps we need to take a leaf out of the American playbook and shout about our talents? Anyway, here we have ‘Broken Machine’, the debut album from gifted singer-songwriter and guitarist, Ash Wilson. Made in Britain.
Opener, ‘Show Me How To Love You’ begins with a homage to the famous railroad imagery used to great effect in blues music. The guitar as a train whistle (‘Train Kept A-Rollin’ like), although synonymous with the genre, still sounds fresh and invigorating. Wilson attributes the background chanting to the delta blues born from the cotton pickers on the rail line during the 1890’s. The song might be steeped in tradition, but when Wilson utters the opening line “Like a freight train whistling in, cruel legs started walking”, he turns the railroad imagery on its head by comparing it to the moment ‘that one girl’ walks into a room. The song is a maelstrom of fuzzy guitar licks and solos to make the head spin. Sibling Phil Wilson keeps pounding out the steady drum beat that becomes quite hypnotic. I listened to the track three times in a row and was still discovering something new on the third listen!
Wilson has a fairly distinctive vocal style. If he sang in a metalcore band, he would be the one providing the clean vocals! Very smooth vocals throughout the ten tracks featured on ‘Broken Machine’, best exemplified on the shuffling ‘Peace And Love’. Bob Fridzema from King King pops up to lend his Hammond to the overall sound. Adding a Hammond to any song instantly gains it an extra dimension. There is a magical moment, midway through the song, where Fridzema unleashes a solo, before Wilson comes in, and the pair trade licks. It’s more laidback than when Lord and Blackmore used to go toe to toe in Deep Purple, but equally as enjoyable, and I can imagine this leading to a massive jam on stage. ‘Broken Machine’ is another highlight. The brief “good times, sad times” part might be a subconscious tribute to early Zeppelin or it might just be me imagining things… again! Either way, I can dig it. After the emotional ‘Words Of A Woman’, ‘Out Of Time’ provides some fun, with a lovely groove throughout. Again, I can see Wilson stretching this one out live, with lots of room for improvisation, as each band member takes their moment to shine. ‘The Hitcher’ is much quieter, as Wilson uses personal experience and heartbreak to fuel his songwriting… ”My baby just left me, and I was the last to know”. The album ends with another tender moment in ‘Holding Hands’, which features another sublime performance from Fridzema, this time mixing his Hammond with a gentle piano. It’s called “The Blues” for a reason, you know?
At forty five minutes in length, Ash Wilson doesn’t overstay his welcome. He gets in and gets the job done, makes his mark then leaves. In that forty five minutes he does more than enough to ensure that he will be a name to look out for. ‘Broken Machine’ is available from April 21st.
Ash Wilson is appearing as special guest on the upcoming live dates from Dan Patlansky. For more Ash Wilson information, check his website.
Review: Dave Stott