First impressions can be dangerous. A few years ago I saw Scotsman Andy Gunn playing a support slot, and was left underwhelmed by a set that seemed lacking in direction. In particular, guitarist Gunn took on only occasional vocal duties, and had a female singer at his side who seemed uncertain of her role. So I had low expectations of Too Many Guitars To Give Up Now, and paid it little attention for months after its release in February this year. This was a bad call on my part, and I owe Andy Gunn an apology, because it’s a damn fine album with a clear sense of purpose.
Too Many Guitars To Give Up Now is old school blues. If you like, say, Eric Clapton’s
reading of ‘Third Degree’ on From The Cradle, then my guess is you’ll like this. Or as Gunn himself has said in an interview, it started out as a guitar, keyboards and blues harp recording, partly inspired by the album Buddy And The Juniors, by Buddy Guy, Junior Wells and Junior Mance, to which Gunn subsequently decided to add a rhythm section on several tracks.
|Andy Gunn does some interleaving with blues harp|
Straight ahead meditative blues like these aren’t the be all and end all of the album though. ‘Back On Song’ may be low key, right from its murmured count in, but it’s a singular, boundary-melting offering, with backing vocals from Liz Jones of Broken Windows. Leaning on warm piano playing from Mays, it has a lovely melody, beautifully sung by Gunn and Jones, that has a smidgen of ‘I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free’ about it, and
|Groaning the blues|
Elsewhere, Gunn brings some sparkling, fuzzy guitar to the relaxed and swinging‘Mississippi Ground’, with neat variations in rhythm from Walker, and wah-wah to ‘Eidyn Shuffle’, an instrumental with impressive, breezy harp from MacKenzie, flourishes of organ, and skipping drums. The most upbeat moment though, comes in the form of the old-fashioned rough and tumble boogie of the title track, which recounts how Gunn got hooked on the blues, and where the musical addiction led.
For those who aren’t familiar with his story, it’s worth mentioning that Andy Gunn has good reason to feel an affinity with the blues. Born with haemophilia, he contracted HIV and Hepatitis C from a contaminated blood transfusion, and went off the rails for a spell with addictions of a non-musical variety. As a consequence of his illnesses he has also had to contend with two episodes of cancer and a related heart attack. But for all these troubles, Too Many Guitars To Give Up Now presents a convincing case that the Gunndog, as Andy Gunn likes to style himself, is now in fine fettle. He is, one might say, back on song.