My introduction to Duke Garwood was the words "Experimental Blues", and initially this filled me with dread. I'm all for experimentation, but I have always felt blues to be rather stripped bare, and worried that messing around with such a spare formula could only leave you with a mess. So I put off hearing this album for a while, until by chance I got to thinking about Jimi Hendrix, who aside from being something of a blues-rock god was nothing if not experimental.

Listening to Dreamboatsafari, Garwood's latest album, I found that both my fears, and hopes, were correct. It's a bipolar work with some fantastic songs: 'Gods In My Shoes' scuzzy guitar work, and gospelish choirs of moans invoke visions of a smoky southern American blues bar; 'Summer Gold's' Hendrix like reverb and scratchy vocals create a perfect vision of a hot summer evening; and 'Wine Blood' is a wonderfully personal and listless hymn to, well, I'm not quite sure, but there's definite heartbreak there.

These songs however, are punctuated by experimental pieces, 'Panther' and 'Tapestry of Mars' being notable cases. The former a droning call of muted horns, voices, and minimal percussion which is just too much of a sonic headache, and the latter is, while fantastically jazz-bluesy, a frantic wall of sound. At times, this album feels almost like a Jackson Pollock as instrumental parts are thrown together loosely, and while I can completely imagine these jams being impressive live, they just don't come together as well in a recorded medium.

It's hard to put a rating on an album like this, it's clear that Garwood is an accomplished artist, but whether he is a recording artist is another matter. Blues has always been a live craft, and transporting that atmosphere from a dingy club to someone's living room, or car, or iPhone is an incredibly difficult task. Garwood does achieve it at times with his more conventional songs, but his experimentation falls much flatter, and in that failure I think a lot of the artist is lost.

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