Audiences like their Blues singers to be miserable, noted Janis Joplin. While it’s true that a distinctly world-weary, hard-bitten life is an undeniable prerequisite to convincingly bellow the blues, that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun with it. Wit can accompany the wisdom. Ron Bowdery effortlessly blends both in his sound and lyrics, and a guitar style forged from a musical apprenticeship served alongside some of the finest British rock and roll pioneers of the 60’s.
Ron has been a busy musical bee over the years – 2 previously released records to his name, working with Joe Meek, Gene Vincent, Garry Mills, and Humperdinck himself. As part of the Cherokees, Ron recorded the iconic rockabilly track I’ll Step Down in 1961, which Garry Mills went on to score a top 40 entry with Later in the same year.
So, plenty of form in the past - but what of now? The Sun Valley Days is reassuring evidence that, these days, Ron continues, guitar in hand, to play what he feels – Authentic, unapologetic blues. You could teach anyone to play the blues, but not to feel it. Ron Bowdery certainly knows it, feels it, and plays it. In his own words – He’s “Growing old disgracefully”.
From the album’s opener, Red Lights, Green Lights, Amber, the theme is very much set. Piano keys slide in behind a kaleidoscope of guitar strings, while the fat, plucking bass line seems to wander its improvised way through proceedings with a laid-back ease that kicks off the action with an authentic Southern boogie-woogie feel. From the distortion-drenched vocals of Rockin’ In a Golden Age, which carries the rasp of an early Rod Stewart recording, through the trembling slides and licks of Chocolate Box Hell, onto the thoughtful melancholy musings of the delightful Loser City Folk Song and beyond. The measured and considered ebb and flow of the pace manages to keep the listener on side throughout the album’s ambitious 17 track span.
The slow ballad of Dreamin’s One Thing, Reality’s Another has all the elements of the Stones at their most organic, and here is where Ron sounds at his most comfortable in his casual delivery. There are shades of the psychedelic in The Wizard Is Here, while Beach Groovin’ is a dreamy, hypnotic, hammock-swinging lullaby, with the subtle accompaniment of an upright bass, providing a pulse to the wonderfully idyllic proceedings.
Ultimately, the overall theme of The Sun Valley Days is one of nostalgia, delivered through the medium of rhythm and blues; glimpses of the glory days gone by, the good times long since rolled. While being reflective, fingers burnt and lessons learnt, there are some wonderful moments of wit, amongst the wisdom.