Live Review: GA-20, The Garage, Islington – 17th November 2022

A trio from Boston Massachusetts, GA-20 are the latest outfit to bring the blues bang up to date with lead singer Pat Faherty announcing “Let’s have some fun” as they bounced onto the stage tonight. That declaration alone is testament to the style of blues which the band play. Fast, energetic and raw, taking only the odd moment here and there to slow things down, by just a little. A ripping ‘No No’ opens the show and very much sets the tone for the evening. It’s a swinging yet stomping tune with guitarist Matt Stubbs plucking a rockabilly rhythm, drummer Tim Carman shuffling a punchy beat and Faherty singing to a howl as the song effervescently builds. Lloyd Price’s ‘Just Because’ follows (one of the rare slower numbers) and tonight’s set list, much as on the band’s albums is comprised of a mix of one part covers and two parts original material. Their own track ‘Lonely Soul’ blends a mix of sixties beat group and Detroit punk whilst ‘One Night Only’ chops a growl that’s pure Chicago blues circa the 1940’s. This is 2022. It could easily be 1958. Or 1968, etcetera. So put another dime in that jukebox.

The band formed when Stubbs, looking for fresh options having been surplus to Charlie Musslewhite’s requirements (then touring with Ben Harper), was wisely pointed in the musical direction of Faherty. Fate may have worked out for them both. Their duelling guitar pairing is a dynamic one and with a bass guitar nowhere to be seen, it’s often a fine lined guessing game as to just who is playing the lower scale rhythmic melodies. The answer is both. Stubbs and Faherty constantly trade a to-me-to you musical exchange that, although appearing loose, is a no doubt skilfully tuned and much trusted one.

Despite only having only come together four years ago GA-20 clearly operate at fast pace and they’re currently touring their third album ‘Crackdown’ which is garnering high praise in the US. From this fresh release they showcase a soulful ‘Dry Run’, a sorrowful ‘I Let Someone In’ and they close the set with a rockin’ delivery of ‘By My Lonesome’ – a nod to the recently departed Jerry Lee Lewis if there ever was.

Of the cover versions played, four are Hound Dog Taylor tracks. Evidently they’re fans of the Chicago bluesman’s material and feel it deserves a modern showcasing. ‘Sitting at Home Alone’ and ‘She’s Gone’ are mournfully executed, but it’s the upbeat offerings, ‘Give Me Back My Wig’ and ‘Let’s Get Funky’, that suit them best, the latter of which, serving as an encore, sees the band in full steam ahead mode. A cutting rhythm guitar set to drums at maximum groove and Faherty’s piercing vintage slide screeching away over the top.

“If you don’t like the blues, yer listening to the wrong shit” proclaims Stubbs and he alludes to a tale suggesting blues music may not be all that well known amongst some of today’s Bostonian youth. Rightly or wrongly, he needs not worry. In the middle of the set they cover ‘It Hurts Me Too’ by Tampa Red, an artist whose first recordings will be soon approaching their centenary. One hundred years and counting, yet the songs still maintain a cutting edge. This is 2022 and the blues is seemingly still very alive and still sounding well.

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Alasdair Lambie

Crackdown, one of the best albums of 22. With music like this the blues will never die.