The last time Ash Grunwald was in Vernon, he was a dreadlocked blues slinger performing at Silver Star’s Saloon and snowboarding local runs, back when snow was plentiful.
A lot has changed since that winter of 2014, mainly the disappearance of the snow. The dreadlocks are also gone. And now the powerhouse guitarist-vocalist and avid surfer from Down Under is back on these shores to experience a full Canadian summer.
This current tour, Grunwald’s 14th to B.C., brings the Aussie to play both intimate gigs as well as larger festivals across Canada. His stop in Vernon next Tuesday is in between his appearances at the Winnipeg and Vancouver Folk Festivals, and was organized by Vernon resident Lenny Whatmore.
“I met Ash Grunwald last year whilst he was on tour and he confided that although he enjoys the big venues for the remuneration, his true love is playing the smaller town halls for their intimacy,” said Whatmore. “I just feel this is such a rare opportunity for local blues fans to see such a fabulous artist up close and personal. He puts on a stellar performance.”
Known for his swampy Delta blues style, Grunwald began touring B.C. early in his career. One of his first gigs here was at the Salmon Arm Roots and Blues Festival, when he shared the same stage as the late, great Jeff Healey as well as with Sue Foley and Big Jack Johnson.
“That was a big experience for me and an eye opener,” he told The Morning Star last year. “What I like about Canada, especially with the older people, is they know what the blues is. In some places, no one thinks of my music as bluesy, but I come to places like Canada and there’s a lot more tenacity required on my part to get it right, probably more than the audience realizes.”
Particularly popular in the ski resort town of Whistler, where he performs often, Grunwald’s live performances are known for his blistering guitar as well as riding the beat in a percussive style.
“When I play live, it has that four-on- the-floor, modern pulse that we get from electronic dance music,” he said.
Grunwald made his U.S. tour debut last year opening for fellow Aussie and friend Xavier Rudd, and like Rudd, he plays from a solo, one-man band act to having a full ensemble accompanying him.
During his career, Grunwald has supported James Brown, Jack Johnson, Bo Diddley, The Black Keys, Keith Urban, Missy Higgins and has performed with blues legend Howlin’ Wolf. He has won countless music awards in Australia and his songs have been featured in the film Limitless, starring Bradley Cooper and Robert DeNiro, and most recently on the TV show Nashville.
Along with this latest tour, Grunwald has also been working on a new album, his eighth, on the heels of his most recent recording, Gargantua
Due out globally in September, the album, entitled NOW, features first single River, currently being played in Australia and will be heard live on Grunwald’s Canadian tour.
Grunwald takes the stage at the Vernon Elks Hall, 3103 30 St., Tuesday, July 14 at 8 p.m. Tickets are available at the Bean Scene or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.