Multi-award winning blues and roots musician Ash Grunwald is undoubtedly one of the most riveting and talented performers on the Australian musical landscape. Still riding the high of 2010’s award-winning album Hot Mama Vibes, sixth studio album Trouble’s Door symbolises a two-year period of change, and a new direction. Ash stated on his website (http://ashgrunwaldindex.wordpress.com/) that the album involved “some of my most personal songwriting”, laying the foundations for “his most internal album to date”.
Back in 2004, Ash Grunwald described his sound as “a cross between old delta blues, and hip-hop-ish modern roots”. Oh, how his sound has evolved since then. A slow transition from flying solo in the formative years to collaborating and working with dubstep producer and side project partner Fingers Malone on this record has allowed Ash to further encapsulate his driving dancefloor rhythms, and explore an eclectic range of sounds and influences that transcend typical genre-tagging.
First single off the album, Longtime, is a killer track, with a guitar hook so catchy and infectious, it’s impossible not to feel incredibly happy and upbeat stomping your foot and grooving out to it. Such a funky sound resonates through the song by incorporating many guitar loops, with varying effects and multiple percussive elements. The vocal distortion in the chorus between powerful lyric, “Thought I was high but I was barely alive”, makes it difficult to distinguish between Ash’s hummed voice and guitar, inadvertently creating an incredibly infectious hook (just try and remove it from your mind box). It’s one of many moments on Trouble’s Door that astounds you as to what incredible things Ash can do with his voice.
To further emphasise this, the way in which Ash unleashes his unbelievable range on tracks such as Ramblin’ Man is quite astounding, his vocals rolling from deep baritone to falsetto so effortlessly. He conveys such raw emotion through his rich and deep voice on tracks Demon In Me, his vibrato reverberating in your eardrums long after the song has finished.
Across the record, Ash complements his voice with expert guitar playing that delves in influences of blues and roots, country, and psychedelia. His use of different guitar effects are one of many elements that give each track their own signature feeling and sound, which is impressive considering he uses the same base instruments for each track.
Ash has this unique ability to capture the listener’s attention with his emotive voice or expert guitar finger work, and take them on a personal journey. The introspective journey Ash undergoes on the title track Trouble’s Door is emphasised by meandering verses that take the mind wandering with psychedelic guitar, an atmospheric backing and eerie echoed vocals, “I used to throw stones at trouble’s door, and once again I was cold and alone”. In trademark fashion, Ash snaps the mind back to reality in each chorus, lifting the tempo with hard-hitting, heavy reverb guitar that creates a real four-to-the-floor dance vibe.
Dubstep producer and side project partner Fingers Malone exerts a subtle dance influence on Trouble’s Door. There’s the dubstep tempo and synth backing of opening track The Demon In Me, quirky percussion rhythm of When You Need Em, and heavy synth and hip hop drum fills of Sail (a cover originally by Awolnation). The dance vibe has always been present in Ash’s music, but Fingers gives it that extra kick that will make it irresistible to dance to in a live setting.
Interestingly, the album’s release was funded by fans via Pledge Music. Symbolising a new way that artists fund projects, Pledge Music transformed the production process of Trouble’s Door into a transparent collaborative process between the fans and Ash. The success of this release paves the way for more artists to use Pledge Music as an exciting new way for artists to fund music, with fans involvement. Check it out here http://www.pledgemusic.com/projects/troublesdoor.
This album is an example of experimentation that has been pulled off with exceptional results. The album is an introspective work, exploring a range of personal topics through an eclectic range of well-executed musical elements. There is not a single dull moment on this record. As the mood shifts with each song, you are pulled into another experience, and there are many to be had. A refreshing listen from start to finish, each song will have you sitting on the edge of your seat in sheer wonderment as to what he will deliver next.