Ty me up Ty me down – Garner sings the blues

reviewed by Esther Troy

Having spent the day on the M4 and searching endlessly for parking with a very brief foray into Bath’s Christmas market – I was not in the best mood.

However, things looked up when we pulled into the last available car park space at Norden Farm with minutes to spare and – though being tired and cranky would be the death knell for most performances – it is just about perfect for the Blues.

In the intimate setting of the studio, it was refreshing to see a quality act be so unassuming. Simplicity and the music reigned.

Ty Garner normally plays with a quartet, so the gig had a more elemental feel, as there was just Ty on vocals and electric guitar accompanied by Steve Richardson on his new, compact, wooden Steinberg bass (though percussion was added by the uncut spangled guitar strings at the head of Ty’s guitar). The set felt impromptu with the two of them seeming to decide on the next track by what felt right at that particular moment and whilst Ty would sometimes be lost for words, that was never the case with the music – classic Blues with an imaginative, contemporary edge just flowed.

A case in point is when the audience voted for ‘Route 66’ over ‘Every Day I Have the Blues’ but after the intro took a more jazzy progression, we got the latter instead (though to be fair we were also treated to a kicking version of ‘Route 66’ in the second half).

Ty mixes his own take on classic numbers like those above and Congo Square (which awesomely demonstrates his skill and the psychedelic power of the guitar) with his own compositions; these tend to focus on babies having left him, or in the process of leaving him, or him looking for some poor female that he seems to have accidentally misplaced (and this was the source of much comment throughout the set by Steve).

However, it should be noted that Ty keeps up to date with technological developments, in that his ‘Telephone Baby’ has now been upgraded to an Internet one with jpeg legs!

It was also quite an educational set – amongst other things we learnt why guitar cases have pink fluffy linings, why drums are illegal and why a guitarist can never become a terrorist.

My favourite number was an instrumental called John Peel’s Blues, which as the name suggests pays tribute to the DJ John Peel, who was famed for giving airtime to non-mainstream groups. The track combines blues and jazz in an eclectic manner branching off in different directions with amazing interaction between Ty & Steve, but always returning to the recurring theme and with a toe-tapping rhythm throughout.

To finish, we had an homage to Johnny ‘Guitar’ Watson. I was a little concerned to what degree the tribute would go (given that he died on stage in Japan), but thankfully no self-immolation was committed. In fact, the only thing that died on stage tonight was the amp and even that had the courtesy to wait until the end of the song.

However, it did cause a problem, in that the promised encore could not be provided, until Jake – a member of the audience who had attended workshop earlier in the day (which given the educational tidbits we received during the set one can only imagine must have been brilliant for any budding guitarists) – came to the rescue appearing with his own amp in hand and we got our encore with, what else, but one last rousing ‘My Baby Left Me’.

Whilst I don’t want to wish anyone ill in their personal life, there is a small part of me that is hoping that Ty’s Internet Baby Skypes off with someone else in the future, thus providing more material for him to create some new Blues classics.

Unfortunately that was the last date in Ty Garner’s current tour and, given that he performs mostly on the continent, it may be a while before you get another opportunity to see him live. However, his new album, ‘My Internet Baby’, will hopefully be finished and out in the New Year.

To see an upcoming gigs calendar and details of his back catalogue, please go to www.tygarner.co.uk