In North America, blues-roots music is making a strong comeback, thanks in large part to the work of Gary Clark, Jr., whose interpretation of this great genre has captivated audiences young and old. However, in the “land down under”, Australians have long embraced the music that B.B. King, Taj Mahal, and Buddy Guy made popular decades ago. Over the past two decades, there has been a huge wave of blues-roots musicians coming out of Australia. Much of the credit goes to the great music festival scene in Australia, such as the Byron Bay Bluesfest, and to Triple J, the awesome Australian radio station which has included the blues and roots as part of its daily programming and, thus, making them a part of the mainstream music scene.
Today’s Mundo Musique features two fantastic blues-roots musicians from Australia. One is a relative “veteran” of the music scene, and the other is a young man who has been captivating audiences since he was 15 years old. Discover these two artists now before someone else does.
In 2011, my wife and I had the great fortune to attend the Byron Bay Bluesfest, which is one of the best music festivals in the world (the area is also gorgeous, so that helps). On one of the early time slots, we decided to catch Ash Grunwald, a musician who we knew little to nothing about. Three years later, we still talk about that show and the music, as Grunwald and his two-piece backing band just exploded the tent despite it being 1:00 in the afternoon.
The 37-year old Ash Grunwald has been performing as a musician for nearly 15 years. His style is similar to the old masters of the genre. If one knew very little about him, he likely would be mistaken as a musician from the Deep South with his combination of storytelling about the mundanes of life; the slight twang in his voice; and his tendency to use finger-picking, guitar melodies, such as on “Just Can’t Help Myself” and “Just Be Yourself” from his debut album, Introducing Ash Grunwald, which was released in 2002. But like most blues-roots artists, he’ll electrify his guitar, like on the burner “Breakout” from his second album, A Fish Out of Water.
Trouble’s Door, which was released in 2012, might be his best work. Grunwald stays true to the roots-blues genre, but the songwriting is stronger and the inclusion of another backup guitar provides depth in the music. Opener “The Demon in Me” is a head-nodder of a blues song while “Longtime” is an uptempo, foot-tapping, if not boogying, tune.
Last year, he released the upbeat Gargantua with Scott Owen and Andy Strachan, which included a cover of Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy” and a re-interpretation of Grunwald’s “Breakout”.
The affable, surf-loving Grunwald is currently touring in Western Canada for the next couple of weeks. Tour dates are on his website. You can also stream most of his music on his Soundcloud site, which is provided below.
Richard Perso has been performing in front of audiences for 7 years, starting at the age of 15. And I’m not talking about playing a single instrument and singing in front of people. Perso is a one-man band, who, despite his youth, masterfully plays the guitar and the didgeridoo while, of course, tapping along on his beat box. The incorporation of the didgeridoo brings a unique element to Perso’s blues and roots music, adding a mystical and haunting quality at times while on other songs adding to the pace and groove.
Despite being only 22 years old, Perso has performed in over 100 festivals in Australia, the US, and Canada. This experience has allowed Perso to hone his stage presence, where he is an immense stage presence and is extremely comfortable in front of a live audience. Canadian festival goers, including myself, got a chance to see Perso in person last summer, as he played at the multiple blues and folk festivals across the vast country. Perso’s musicianship leaves one in awe, yet at the same time he entertains with his stories of his youth. He also openly declares that his pursuit of a music career is a family affair, as his parents have been a great support and father often is his “roadie”, including during the cross-Canada run.
Perso has released two albums – Out from the Shadows and Dreams vs. Reality. You can hear the albums on Perso’s Soundcloud link, which is below.
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