The absurdly talented multi-instrumentalist Duke Garwood is enjoying ever wider recognition after 20 years in the industry and it can only increase with ‘Garden Of Ashes’ — the even heavier follow-up to 2015’s acclaimed ‘Heavy Love’.
Garwood has always been widely known to other musicians and he’s long been sought after for collaborations, racking up contributions with a long list of acts. He’s played sax and rhaita for the criminally underrated Archie Bronson Outfit and clarinet for Savages. He pretty much plays anything put in his hands and turns up on records by his close amigo Mark Lanegan, as well as Kurt Vile, Josh T. Pearson, Tinariwen and more.
For his own records, Garwood used to play everything himself, layering all the various instruments to create a singular distinctive groove. On this latest outing he’s allowed the input of others and the sense of coherence has not faltered. Recorded in Garwood’s own Valley Heights studio and at Giant Wafer in Wales with Strat Barrett producing, the album features friends Paul May on drums, Pete Marsh on double bass and a delicate counterbalance to Garwood’s gravelly rum-scorched croon with one half of the Smoke Fairies' on backing vocals.
The music is evocative of a rural expanse — you don’t feel the clatter and closeness of the city. You don’t see buildings and the blurry stream of headlights. Instead you sense open space… a track snaking through the desert or a raft slipping smoothly through wetlands.
These eleven tracks have a sense of pleasant sluggishness to them — they evoke the lack of energy that descends in hot humid weather and the enjoyment taken in the necessary repose. The album is bookended by ‘Coldblooded’ and the closer ‘Coldblooded The Return’, a track which reminds you of the start of the journey and leaves you feeling somehow wiser for it.
The first single, ‘Coldblooded’ has a steady hypnotic roll with rattlesnake percussion and intoxicating guitar that swirl together into a sweat drenched blues. This is an album for a particular mood — it’s not for jolting you awake or getting the blood up before a big night out — this is the antidote. It is laid back blues, thick as molasses and just as sweetly black. This is sloth-like, smouldering blues from the nomadic Brit now based in Hastings.
“In a world so full of pain and madness we need to be better than ever; to evolve not devolve. To become masters of our fate and stop listening to the snake talkers who would steal our last breath. It’s time to go Elvis and shoot the cursed TV.”
While you may not be ready to destroy the idiot box, especially as you need to see the last few episodes of ‘The OA’, you should make time to get lost in Garwood’s inebriating backwaters. ‘Garden Of Ashes’ is redolent of a muggy swamp and just as easy to sink into.
Words: Nick Rice
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