Duke Garwood

Duke Garwood


It’s been a while since the Deaf Institute, with its adapted original features and perfect gig ambience, committed cultural harakiri and was eclipsed by the apparently more original-feature-featuring, more perfectly ambient and notably larger Albert Hall. Once the hottest alt gig venue in town, the good old Deafy could no longer meet the demand it seductively whipped up and now sits quietly emasculated off Oxford Road, awaiting its next sporadic outing.

Aside from visiting my old gig venue friend, I signed up to see Duke Garwood tonight for a very specific reason: to see him come out from under the shadow of his collaboration partner Mark Lanegan and hold his own as a frontman in the aftermath of a new album release. I last saw Garwood in Manchester Cathedral supporting Lanegan, unfortunately drowned out somewhat in the echoey vacuum by the excitable buzz of waiting fans.

The modest-sized stage and intimate environs of the Deaf Institute are much more fit-for-purpose, despite some issues with sound through the set. With the ink barely dry on Garwood’s latest album Garden of Ashes, he takes a gamble and plays the entire release from start to finish. Luckily this goes down well with the admiring crowd he’s conjured on this cold Sunday evening.

First single from the album ‘Coldblooded’ sets the pace with its hypnotic, rolling riff and gambling-everything-on-the-roll-of-a-dice narrative. The title track’s rattlesnake percussion and angelic flurry of strums take the mood to a trance-like level: “Too beautiful to see/Night will come and blow our minds“.

Garwood’s extensive experience and talent with instruments comes to the fore in such an intimate environment, as its impossible to take your eyes off his guitar technique. Unsurprisingly, he engages in little onstage chat, keeping the spotlight off his rural Kent roots, his silence reinforcing the Americana-tinged bluesy soundscapes his music paints.

The set closes with ‘Sleep’, a firm highlight that demonstrates Garwood’s exceptional ability to manipulate his guitar. He flits effortlessly between bluesy riffs, Flamenco strums and harp-like harmonics. “With a smile so fine, you cut me down/The lullabies are falling, sleep, baby sleep/I will brush the night right from your hair”.

Following a 20-year career as a multi-instrumentalist and a professional who has enhanced the output of some great musicians, Duke Garwood’s solo profile is steadily building and the recognition he deserves is surely coming his way. Prescribing a heady mixture of tranquilising, inward-looking narratives, Duke Garwood is now most definitely ready to see you.

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