Australian born blues guitarist Ash Grunwald brought his groove to Missoula's Top Hat Lounge and captured the hearts of the locals. Although he has almost a decade of touring in Australia, Japan, Europe and Canada under his belt, Grunwald is making his United States debut this summer as direct support for lifelong friend, fellow Aussie artist Xavier Rudd, on their 24-date tour. Grunwald definitely took this college town by surprise.
Grunwald gained a reputation for providing crowd frenzied shows and blistering guitar playing, reminiscent of the greats before him like Buddy Guy, B.B. King, Jimi Hendrix and Steve Ray Vaughn. Vocally and lyrically, you can pick up pieces of Howlin’ Wolf, R.L. Burnside, Eddie James “Son” House and Tom Waits. His song Walking was featured in the 2011 film Limitless, starring Bradley Cooper and Robert De Niro.
Grunwald released his self-titled compilation album in the U.S. on May 20, 2014, which contains both studio and live tracks. The album includes the single Longtime, which is now available as a free MP3 download on Grunwald's website (www.ashgrunwald.com).
The song’s official music video (which is attached to the article) features Ash and Xavier at home in Byron Bay enjoying their second passion in life: surfing. “We’ve got a really cool community up here -- many barrels and campfire jams! It’s the Australian cliché, but we love it.”
The Top Hat was filled with Xavier Rudd fans who had no idea who Grunwald was as he made his way to the stage with his electric guitar and electric dobro. Grunwald sat on a stool behind his kick drum right next to a stomp box, picked up his guitar, and began playing his brand of "in your face" blues, Australian style.
In no time at all, Grunwald had the audience in the palm of his hands with this bass thumping, electrical blues. His voice was full of soul as he worked both his vocal mic and his echo chamber mic. His music has so much depth that it was hard to believe all of it was coming from him and not a full band.
The crowd truly responded as he launched into his second song, Walking, which received placement in the film Limitless. It is the kind of tune that aerobic exercise programs are built around - the type that makes you want to get up and move. And that's exactly what the audience did, as one by one they began to dance to the groove. It was so awesome to look around the venue and see all the people dancing with their eyes closed and looks of rapturous wonder on their faces.
Grunwald brought so much passion to each and every song as he played them faster and faster until they became the perfect soundtrack for a rave. But he saved the best for last, as he turned Gnarls Barkley's hit Crazy into a blues-heavy rock song.
The City of Missoula and the patrons of the Top Hat Lounge will never be the same after experiencing this blistering blues set by Grunwald. Plans are already under way to bring him back next year as a headliner.
Special thanks to Aili Watanabe and Laura Goldfarb of Red Boot PR for turning me on to this amazing artist. Their taste in music is one of a kind and they have never steered me wrong.