24 Sep 2021

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Grant Haua - Album Review: Awa Blues

12 Jan 2021 // A review by Kev Rowland

2020 saw me write more than 650 reviews of all manner of music, but the one song which for me really stood head and shoulders above the rest was This is the Place - Tenei Te Ao. It has a raw simplicity and passion which is hard to describe, yet is incredibly effective and grabs me each and every time I play it, and I still enjoy listening to it now as much as I did the very first time. This one song captures a time and feeling like few others, so I was champing at the bit to hear the album when it became available as if it were anything like the single then I knew it was going to be something very special indeed. I was right.

Although there are a few other musicians on the album such as Tim Julian (engineer, keyboards, shakers, bass), Grant Bullot (harp), Jesse Colbert (double bass)  and Fred Chapellier (guitar), this is all about Grant, his vocals and his driving acoustic guitar. It is an album rooted in the blues, at times very traditional, but at others bang up to date and crammed full of emotion and hooks. Opener Got Something has a driving bass, electric guitars, and multiple picked acoustics, with Grant showing that while he can sing pleasantly when he wishes to, there are plenty of other times when a raw Bob Seger-style vocal is what works best. This song is soaked in the blues, raw and true, sounding as if Grant is from the French Quarter of New Orleans as opposed to Aotearoa. The contrast in musical styles and emotional connection between this and This is the Place - Tenei Te Ao are vast, as here we have Grant singing about his whanau, heritage and home, with keyboards and percussion staying in the background and a gorgeous strat cutting through when the time is right.

However, that is one of the real joys of this album, as playing it is like going on a voyage of discovery as Grant moves through lots of different, blues-based styles, always with his guitar and vocals leading the way. We also have a combination of serious songs and ones that are far more humorous, which lighten the emotional load. Tough Love Momma is nothing short of one of the best songs The Band never recorded, with picked acoustics, harp, plenty of slide and one can really picture Grant being in trouble with his mother and what she did to ensure he understood why he was in the wrong. The image of Grant sitting on a bar stool when he should have been home, then hearing his momma’s car pulling up outside and knowing what was coming next, is something which is very real indeed.

His approach means we get more serious numbers such as Addiction contrasting lyrically, musically, and emotionally with the likes of Mumma’s Boy. The use of light and shade ensures that each style comes through with more emphasis, and Grant’s annunciation is very clear indeed, so one soon finds they are listening to the stories and really concentrating on the words. Better Day still has plenty of acoustic guitar, but the piano is an incredibly important element, as is the use of bowed bass. The listener understands throughout the album that Grant is always singing about personal experiences, about subjects to which he feels emotionally invested, which consequently means the listener feels the same way.

I have been listening to this album a great deal over the last few weeks, trying to put into words just how this makes me feel, but I know I will have failed. When asked about the album Grant said, “The feeling and imagery I'm trying to convey in this album is pretty simple. I'm a huge fan of simplicity. I like simple but great food. I want a song to be as satisfying as a Sunday roast cooked by your Mum. A tune as good as eating big fat oysters straight from shell. Picking as great as sipping a cool beer on a hot day.”

It may be simple, and at times does feel closer to pre-war blues than music from 2021, but it is also incredibly honest. What you hear is what you get with Grant, and in this throwaway and image-centred false world that is something very special indeed.

Rating: ( 5 / 5 )

About Grant Haua

Grant Haua

Grant is a “salt of the earth” kind of guy. When we put together a bio for him he said “Nah man. I am a just a guy with a guitar. You need to tell the story straight”. So who better than to tell his story than the man himself - the following is Grants bio, straight from the horse’s mouth. - DF Records

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for Grant Haua


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