With his new album, Sovereign Town, blues triple-threat artist Geoff Achison has created his most mature work yet. A stunningly virtuosic blues guitar player (all the way back to his days with the legendary Dutch Tilders) as well as an evocative and soulful vocalist and one of our finest roots songwriters, Achison has reigned everything in on Sovereign Town in order to tell the story, plain and simple, straight from the heart.

Inspired by the history and human struggle of Victoria’s goldfields (long abandoned when Achison played among their mullock-heaps and yawning potholes as a boy growing up in Malmsbury), Sovereign Town reflects the landscape and the humanity in its largely acoustic soundscapes and atmospheres.

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Opener ‘Skeleton Kiss’ has a beautiful rising line of harmony that moves the song, and the listener, into some dramatic places.

‘Miniature Man’ showcases Achison’s intensely felt vocal on a simple acoustic tune, helped along by the growl of Andrew Fry‘s upright bass. Achison’s vocal has, in the past, been often overshadowed by his remarkable guitar work, but across Sovereign Town he has chosen to pull back the storming guitar for a mellower feel – notwithstanding, his pearlescent tone on ‘Miniature Man’s solo is quite gorgeous.

The three instrumentals here are vehicles of true guitar virtuosity – not for their chops, though the finger style workout of album closer ‘Coolbardie Sunrise’ would twist many lesser player’s fingers into knots – but for the moods they convey and how they ‘speak’ to the listener, without words. ‘Misha Bella’s jazz guitar slink conjures blue and indigo and smoke drifting upwards from a cigarette. The gut-string ‘Hand of Faith’ is pure atmosphere – conjuring the shadows of a Moorish church in Spain. GeoffAchison_FinalArtFront

The title track, ‘Sovereign Town’ is a crisp country shuffle and an example of wonderfully evocative songwriting – through words and music a landscape is painted. Achison’s fluid solo reminds one of Dickey Betts‘ approach to country guitar – tangy blues and jazz figures twist in and out of the sweet country lines.

Fry and drummer Dave Clark shine on any of the varied feels Achison’s songs throw at them – from the chugging groove of ‘Rescue the Past’ to their transparent and empathic playing on the slow blues ‘World of Blue’ – the latter containing a highpoint of the album: Achison’s slide solo, an eerily ‘vocal’ performance drawn out of the guitar by a master. Liam Keely‘s Hammond organ is beautifully balanced throughout – surging when it needs to, almots invisible when it needs to fade back (check the gossamer tones behind Achison’s guitar on ‘Hand of Faith’).

Geoff Achison has always extended his music beyond the coastal fringes of the blues, while never losing the spirit of the music he loves. Sovereign Town moves out to all directions known, yet the compass needle never wavers. A mature and meaningful work by an artist who is certain of the story he needs to tell.

 

Sovereign Town is available from https://www.geoffachison.com/musicstore/

 

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