(written for thelineofbestfit.com)
Duke Garwood recently released Dreamboatsafari via Fire Records, and just because he comes from the streets of South London doesn’t instantly mean that he’s some rapper. In fact it’s quite the opposite. When Garwood was on tour with Mark Lanegan, he had the epiphany to release a ‘space cowboy record’, documenting some sort of a spiritual journey. Marked as a ‘master bluesman’ and acknowledged for his phenomenal ability to expand on and experiment with ‘dusty room blues’, this album had a lot to live up to.
‘Jesus Got A Gun’, the first track on the album, is ridden with fluid blues and soft percussion where you are left in a mood of reflection, lyrics washing over you as you contemplate the bizarre image of Jesus with a gun… In its power to take you to a place of amenity, hazy visions of a smoky Southern blues bar and a hot summer evening are all that occupy your mind, and space for every day worries diminish and instead are lined with echoes of a Jimi Hendrix like reverb. There are some really impressive pieces of work within the album such as ‘Gods In My Shows’, where dishevelled guitar sounds are combined with a lamenting gospel choir who join Garwood’s palliative vocals. ‘Summer Gold’ is somewhere to get lost amongst the song’s many textures, and its warm guitar so delicate, a tear happens to develop in the corner of your eye. As you’re already halfway through your spiritual quest, ‘Wine Blood’ comes along, something deeply personal, and a fragile tin-like percussion urging this feeling of genuine enlightenment (I don’t think it’s a commercial ploy in this case).
However, with the album’s progress, the songs take an experimental turn with percussion and trumpets and deteriorates this spiritual journey initiated by the first few tracks – ‘Panther’ and ‘Tapestry of Mars’ in particular. Percussion is the same throughout, only to be accompanied by the prolonged call of muffled trumpets overpowering distorted voices, which towards the song’s end simply leaves you with a headache. The sounds are too ‘experimental’ and there are too many of them, and although are evocative of Jackson Pollock’s loosely thrown together instrumentals, just aren’t that enjoyable.
It may be criticised that this album wasn’t meant to be recorded, but rather one to be appreciated live. It’s clear that Garwood, as an artist, is most certainly an accomplished one; however Blues has always been further embraced as a live craft, and whether it’s possible for this atmosphere to be successfully transferred through to your iPod headphones, is an entirely different matter. Nevertheless, the traditional jazz and blues concept has been thoroughly experimented with throughout the album, and is something that will still be appreciated after many listens (especially for the avid blues and jazz enthusiast).
Garwood is due to release a joint LP with Mark Lanegan next year together with plans to collaborate with the Master Musicians of Jajouka led by Bachir Attar in Morocco.