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This article by Richard J. Skelly was prepared for the September
19, 2001 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
The Blues Down Under
Given America’s longstanding and friendly relations
with Australia, it seems likely that musician Geoff Achison, on tour
from Down Under, may be able to deliver the kind of comforting music
Princetonians and New Jerseyans will need after a week scarred by
terrorist violence in New York and Washington, D.C.
Unlike many other guitarists who have chosen to make blues a
Achison adds his own flavor and arrangements to classic blues tunes.
His latest CD, "Mystery Train: A Solo Acoustic Session,"
ample audio evidence of his percussive, rough-edged blues guitar
that are smoothed out by mellower, fatter jazz chords. His vocals
are more than adequate, and since he is doing his date in Princeton
with his backing band, the Souldiggers, he’s bound to offer a
performance. Achison will be at Triumph Brew Pub on Nassau Street
on Thursday, September 20, beginning at 9:30 p.m.
Although Achison is just now heading down the long road to U.S.
his string of awards and previous albums indicate he’s serious about
and dedicated to his craft. His earlier releases include
in the U.K," "Live at St. Andrews," "Getting
"Mystery Train," "Big Machine," and a video, "Live
at the Continental."
In 1995, at the Blues Foundation’s 12th annual International Blues
Talent Competition, Achison was presented with the prestigious Albert
King Award. For the last four summers, he’s been invited as a guest
guitar instructor at Jorma Kaukonen’s magnet guitar school in southern
Ohio, the Fur Peace Ranch. Kaukonen, a founding member of Jefferson
Airplane and Hot Tuna, has carved a national reputation for his own
guitar performance and lecture presentations. At home, Achison won
the Australian Songwriters’ Award for "Comin’ To Getcha" in
1999 in the blues/jazz category, and also won an award as top male
performer. His song, "Adam & Eve" has won an Independent Music
Achison has developed his reputation through virtual
non-stop touring. The Times of London calls him "one of the most
gifted artists to arrive on the scene. The man could be King."
Last year, he took to the road with several original members of Hot
Tuna, including Kaukonen, and he was introduced to domestic audiences
at larger venues throughout the U.S. An Atlanta-based critic for
weekly, Creative Loafing, writes that "Achison deftly mixes Jimi
Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and Robin Trower’s intensity with a
technique and a tasty rhythmic sense."
Achison’s deep, soulful voice seems somewhat out of place within his
slight frame, and his guitar playing can mesmerize his audience. At
Triumph, he and his band will romp through a potpourri of originals
and classic blues and R&B chestnuts, which may include Robert
"Ramblin’ On My Mind," Muddy Waters’ "Rollin’ Stone,"
Elmore James’ "The Sky Is Crying," and even more contemporary
fare, such as Randy Newman’s "Guilty."
Achison was raised in Victoria, Australia, far away from any blues
clubs. The blues he heard came by way of the radio. When asked why
he chose the blues for his favorite means of self-expression, Achison
told Brisbane’s Scene Magazine: "The first time I heard music
played in the blues style I wanted to hear it again. The more I heard
it, the closer I wanted to get to it. If there had been a bunch of
blues clubs where I grew up, I probably would have hung out down there
and been happy with that. But there weren’t any at all. None. If I
wanted to get closer to the music than the ol’ record player would
allow, I had to learn to reproduce it myself."
"I learned to play the blues from old Freddie King albums,"
he says. "He was this sensational guitarist/vocalist [from Texas]
who had the sweetest, thickest guitar tone I’d ever heard. I wanted
to be Freddie King."
Perhaps it’s because of the lack of blues clubs around Achison’s
land during his formative years that his style is totally distinct
and refreshing. And that’s good for American blues fans, some of whom,
like country fans, may be a little tired of the old, familiar themes.
— Richard J. Skelly
Street, 609-924-7855. From Australia, blues guitarist Geoff Achison.
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