Everyone should have heard of Duke Garwood by now. His pedigree and dedication to his craft have brought rave reviews, and his latest album Heavy Love aims to bring his talents to a wider audience. Having worked with Mark Lanegan, and about to tour as his support act, the time for exposure couldn't be better.
At times, Garwood’s laid back approach disguises his roots. He hails out of South London. Yet at times this unlikely bluesman could easily be mistaken as coming from further afield. His gruff soothing voice immediately captures your attention and he demands that you sit down and listen. His pedigree can be heard in the assurance of his vocals; his lyrics confirm his obvious longevity, you get the feeling he has done and seen it all.
The album starts ‘Sometimes’ which sets the mood and tone for the next tracks. The lead single ‘Heavy Love’ is a conformation of Garwood’s talents as this slow and sombre track growls along. Garwood’s delivery is comforting yet provoking. He draws you in and invites you to ponder his modern blues.
Yet it's his guitar work as much as his vocal delivery that sets the tone. ‘Disco Lights’ provides further evidence, if any was needed, that Garwood is just as accomplished on guitar. His use of delay and echo alongside his gruff moody vocals provide an irresistible combination. He is clearly a master at creating swirling, moody landscapes. The track is enhanced by the additional female vocals which echoing and lift the song out of Garwood’s grumblings.
‘Burning Seas’ is built around Garwood’s voice as it slips smoothly over the strings of his steel guitar. The lyrical content is rooted in the elements as he spouts out fire and water metaphors. All of this is wrapped up in his own vision of a modern day bluesman. Consequently, this album has captured him at his grumbling, soulful best. His sound is stripped down to the bare essentials yet is layered with intriguing thought provoking lyrics.
The wonderfully titled ‘Suppertime in Hell’ and ‘Hawaiian Death Song’ reflect that the album has an almost dusty desert feel to it. He abandons the traditional melodic approach and concentrates on piercing lyrics. His lo-fi style allows Garwood to create images of a rambling lone bluesman trekking across the dirt roads.
This is clearly a hugely important album from a lost grumpy Londoner who has been raised on a diet of country blues. This is now his sixth album, and perhaps there hasn’t been a better time to discover Duke Garwood.