The venue is a bit incongruous for these guys, mind you – a neat outdoor amphitheatre in the grounds of a Renaissance fortress, rather than a low-ceilinged club with sweat running down the walls. But when they amble on stage, and get cracking on ‘No No’, the place rocks just the same. Guitarists Matt Stubbs and Pat Faherty (ain’t no space for bass in this line-up) begin with
|Pat Faherty lets the wild cat out of the bagl|
It's not all crackling static energy though, as ‘Just Because’ demonstrates, though there are still warped guitar licks on this dreamy Fats Domino-style ballad, as Stubbs and Faherty swap lead and rhythm. It’s a vibe they explore again a little later on ‘Dry Run’ – romantic but punctuated by thrusting rhythm and spiky lead guitar. Fats, of course, is generally tagged as a rock’n’roll pioneer, and while GA-20 like to style themselves as heavy blues merchants, it’s rock’n’roll that I hear buzzing around my ears when ‘Double-Gettin’’ meshes a rattling vocal from Faherty with a jolting, loping guitar motif, while drummer Tim Carman plays with a maraca in one hand, splashing it off a cymbal.
They really hit paydirt though, when they dive into ‘Give Me Back My Wig’, the first of a few selections from their tribute album to Hound Dog Taylor, Try It . . . You Might Like It. What they serve up here, and on Hound Dog’s ‘She’s Gone’ which follows, is simply, the dirtiest, messiest, most danceable groove you could hope for to get up and shake your tush. And there’s more where that came from on ‘Lonely Soul’, driven along by an irresistible Diddleying rhythm from Carman, and with a solo from Stubbs that’s wirier’n one of those wire hangers that
|The GA-20 boys get down and get with it|
Stubbs relates a bit of their history, playing two-bit gigs and having enthusiastic punters express disbelief that they were playing blues music, and offers the view that “If you don’t like blues, you’re listening to the wrong shit”. Which sounds like a pretty good manifesto to me, when GA-20 are knocking out the kind of big, ringing stuff and splurges of howling slide that feature towards the end of this set, or the set-closing delight of Hound Dog Taylor’s twitching, screeching ‘Let’s Get Funky’. This, plainly, is the right kind of shit, ‘cause I like it a lot.
Earlier, Roberto Luti and Luke Winslow-King delivered a rootsy two-handed support turn, with Luti providing subtle colourings on a Fender Strat, while Winslow-King switches between acoustic guitar and a tambourine as well as supplying the vocals. ‘Out On The Western Plain’ is given a subtle, reflective treatment, with patient, sensitive slide from Luti, and there’s a great sense of rhythm between the two guitars on later songs such as the wicked groove of ‘Peaches’. Winslow-King’s brings intimacy to the vocal on ‘Farewell Blues’, and plenty of personality to ‘Flash Of Magic’, which has a touch of Curtis Salgado about it. But as good an appetiser as the duo served up though, I could have done with them making way sooner, so I could get to the rock’n’rolling main course.
GA-20's latest album Live In Loveland was released in March 2023.