IT'S hard to believe that Ash Grunwald's brilliant new album, Trouble's Door, was recorded by a young fella in Mullumbimby and Ocean Shores.
It's swampy, Southern, soulful - and black-sounding, with straight-ahead blues numbers sung in a clear, strong voice wrapped around a dark heart of murky, atmospheric songs, including the title track, in more evil tones.
While the Grunwald sound has always been marinated in the black American tradition, Trouble's Door represents a new blend of roots and experimentation, and one in which he finds his own true voice - "a function of my age and my context in life", he says.
"I've been doing this for the last 10 years and things are settled. I'm more sure and more accepting of myself. 'This is my stuff, here it is'.
"I'm 35 now and when you get to your mid-30s, I think that's what's supposed to happen.
"Artistically, that means I've been hammering away at it for a fair while and while I've always mixed up the genre element between old and new, now it does sound more natural than ever."
To achieve some of that sound, created in a studio he has built in Ocean Shores, Grunwald fulfilled a long-term wish to acquire a remake of "an old ribbon mic, such as Aretha Franklin would have used back in the day, and some good old valve gear and that allows you to really push it in certain ways".
His buddy, Fingers Malone, is not scared to get aggressive with it, he says, "to really compress the hell out of it, distort it, do what needs to be done".
"When I started out I was completely opposed to this sort of thing. Now I love it," he said.
"Probably the biggest technique of the whole thing is just how many tracks are layered over the top of each other.
"The majority of Longtime, for instance, is maybe 30 or 40 layers of acoustic guitar. There's something really cool about layering up."
His plan had been to do an out-and-out blues album - like his first one - but he found he couldn't bring himself to do it.
"I really felt like I wanted to do something that was pushing forward more than that, so it has a strong blues flavour but the out-and-out blues album is still on the to-do list," he said.
Grunwald will play the Backroom in Byron tomorrow night (Friday).
Perched on sought after McAuleys Lane in the Byron Bay Hinterland with sweeping views over the surrounding countryside from Mount Chincogan to the Koonyum Range is...
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