Richard Ashby – Arkadia Blues | Album Review

Richard Ashby – Arkadia Blues

Self – Released

8 tracks – 28 minutes

Born and bred in the deep south of New Zealand, Richard Ashby has been working as a musician and teacher for over 20 years. After relocating to Sydney in 2008, he has established himself as a performer, composer and educator. He is particularly passionate about guitar teaching and guitar ensembles. Performing regularly in several established groups and as a freelance guitarist, Richard brings a wealth of experience to all his performances, whether as a soloist or group member.

Specializing in jazz, blues, world and popular music, Richard has performed throughout Australia and New Zealand as a sideman and as a featured artist at many prominent jazz and blues festivals and venues. He also regularly works as an accompanist and recording musician throughout Sydney. His website indicates that he is a member of Spyglass, a group shown to have one full album and an EP available on Bandcamp.

The album consists of eight original instrumentals that were written and recorded during the COVID lockdowns that occurred through 2020 and 2021. The album was finally released this past December. While rooted in blues, Richard sought to incorporate other stylistic influences including jazz, funk, and even country. Richard plays all the instruments heard on the album.

The album opens with “Straight 8 Strut”, a traditional blues rock which he cites as reminiscent of Stevie Ray Vaughan. “Rumba Numba” provides a light, bouncy beat. “Shoo Fly” returns to the traditional blues rock with Richard providing an underlying organ accompaniment. The title track, “Arkadia Blues” is cited to be a tribute to guitar great Danny Gatton and has an older rock style.

“It’s A Vibe” slows things down and offers some jazzy runs. The funk-inspired “Bedford Row” continues the jazz feel with Richard citing John Scofield as the influence for his guitar playing on the song.

“Let’s Boogaloo” is a throwback reference to the music style Boogaloo, which had some popularity in the 1960’s. Originating in New York, it mixed Latin music with then popular Doo-Wop and R&B and was performed primarily by Latin musicians, such as Tito Puente and Mongo Santamaria, who had a national hit with his cover of Herbie Hancock’s “Watermelon Man”. In Richard’s hands, the song extends the jazzy feel of the previous songs. 

The album ends with a countrified “Chicken Grit”, which Richard cites as featuring “chicken pickin’ guitar” and you can certainly hear the strut of the chickens in his playing.

Throughout the album, Richard demonstrates the influences that have affected his guitar playing. As discussed, a mixture of jazz intertwines with blues offering a very diverse sound.

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