After eight months in forced hibernation Manchester’s The Ashley Sherlock Band stormed Stockport’s Spinning Top. Originally planned as a single standing gig, the band split the event in to two nights to abide by social distancing rules, with both events being seated. Nigel reports for Louder Than War.
Ably supported by funk-blues power trio (A phrase I’ll be using more than once) TG Lee & The Rago Band, the gig is brilliantly put together, with Mike Swann and the staff niftily darting around the sweltering venue making sure everyone is properly watered!
Careering through half an hour of thumping blues-rock with a heavy funk edge, courtesy of the extraordinary Flea inspired talents of bass player Jonny Hargreaves; the support, led by TG Lee and underpinned by Dan Briggs on drums blow this hungry audience away. Many of those present haven’t been to a live event for more than a year, so to witness the firestorm-virtuoso talents of these three is something of a revelation. It’s pure fun from beginning to end; a big smile and a big heart from the front-man, with the supporting cast, heads down, hammering out some of the sweetest rhythms you ever heard!
I’ve played a few of Ashley’s tracks on my radio show so knew a little of what to expect, but nothing prepares you for the way these three gel together onstage! There’s something incredibly special about power trios (there you go, I did it again!). Without the benefit of a second guitarist, the three protagonists need to be completely aware; in harmony, playing off each other’s every move. I wasn’t going to bring up The Experience because Ashley is a different player altogether than Hendrix, but when you look at the energy drummer Mitch Mitchell put into every performance, looking intently to follow the frontman; how Noel Redding sublimely wove his intricate bass lines through the melee, you start to understand how this band’s dynamic works.
As intricate as Clapton, as refined as Page, there’s a sublime, jazzy way Ashley delicately weaves his magic on the explosive riffs that are the highlight of this set. Comprising a mix of off-kilter blues from CSNY, Little Feat, Rory Gallagher and Robert Cray, through to self-penned tracks from new EP, If You’re Listening (Which is released Friday 9th July), Ashley knows how to wow a crowd. Combined with his incredible vocal ability, part Paul Rodgers – part Ronnie James Dio, he spins between baritone and falsetto, with the words tumbling effortlessly into the mic. It’s hot in the venue and I love the way the Ashley pulls a patterned handkerchief from his back pocket to wipe his dripping brow!
It’s easy to just stand there and plink plonk out a supporting bass line but Charlie Rachel Kay knows how to play; augmenting the frontman perfectly with supporting riffs of her own. After a slow start, drummer Shannon Killarney gets into an Animal-Moon zone, destroying his small drumkit in the process!
It’s not all plain sailing through. The yeh-ha, thumbs-in-the-dungarees of Good Hearted Woman sits awkwardly with Ashley’s explosive southern blues. Invincible, an inexplicable power ballad also seems oddly misplaced, but when the band returns with Fine By Me, it’s like Ritchie Blackmore’s guitar break in Lazy on Made in Japan. He’s back in the room!
The band closes with Bad Penny, a classic Rory Gallagher track; then it’s all over – almost an hour and a half of the best blues rock you’ll hear this side of Nashville. The band proving that’s the scene is not all about post-punk and wonk, and that you can fill a venue twice over as long you’re fucking good!
Words by Nigel Carr. More writing by Nigel on Louder Than War can be found in his Author’s archive. You can find Nigel on Twitter and Facebook Listen to Nigel’s show on Radio Alty – Wednesdays 9-11 pm!