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We caught up with South Australian music identities Gwyn Ashton and Chris Finnen to see what they’ve been up to in isolation and it seems to be a lot! Together they have recorded a new track titled ‘In Isolation’ which will be available very soon. Their 2nd album is well and truly under way and almost finished. Gwyn also has a new single out ‘Down & Dirty’, recorded with his power trio the Born-Again Sinners. Chris is in the midst of writing a book, ‘Finnenisms’ and will release an album with his electric band on November 1st, followed by a live DVD.

About Gwyn Ashton
In Sydney, Australia in the 80s Gwyn Ashton was one-time lead guitarist for Stevie Wright and Swanee and in the 90s he moved to Melbourne and played on two of The Masters Apprentices Jim Keays’ solo albums. Ashton opened for Rory Gallagher, Junior Wells and various blues bands from the USA when they came to Australia.

After relocating and playing the European circuit for three years by 2001 the now Virgin Records France recording artist Gwyn Ashton was nominated at third position as ‘Guitarist of The Year’ in Guitar Part Magazine. First and second positions were Jeff Beck and Gary Moore, fourth was Popa Chubby, fifth was Guns N Roses Izzy Stradlin. Ashton’s first gig in France was opening for Buddy Guy with ex Rolling Stones Mick Taylor on before Gwyn. Ashton questioned this and said ‘we don’t deserve to be on after Mick. It’s the wrong way around’ but the organisers insisted on this as his popularity in France had grown. Ashton then played the Paris Music Trade Show where Fender France presented him with a new Stratocaster.

With numerous worldwide radio appearances under his belt, in the ’90s Ashton appeared live on a radio show in Kent, England with Bert Jansch. He played on a derelict Dutch train carriage on the pirate station Radio London in the Netherlands and networks in Australia including various ABC stations and public radio. He  was also interviewed and played a live performance in France on Paris Inter.

Ashton then co-headlined Garden Blues Festival in Marseille with Robben Ford and on the bill with Ray Charles at Cognac Blues Passions. At this time Ashton had two of his albums simultaneously in the Amazon France Top 100 charts. He has played many guitar and blues festivals including two appearances at the Acoustic Festival of Great Britain, Popkomm in Berlin, Guitar Heroes Festival in Germany with Mick Taylor and has conducted blues masterclasses at London’s Guitar Institute, Guitar X and Academy of Sound in Birmingham and Exeter, England. Ashton also played the 10th annual ’Thanks Jimi’ Festival in Wroclaw, Poland onstage with Bernie Marsden and Jimi Hendrix’s brother Leon Hendrix, leading 8000 guitarists playing ‘Hey Joe’ in the market square setting a new ‘Guinness Book of World Records’.

For five years Ashton was Gerry McAvoy’s choice for fronting the Rory Gallagher celebratory group Band of Friends, replacing Thin Lizzy/Motorhead guitarist Brian Robertson. They headlined the first two Ballyshannon Rory Gallagher Festivals with members of The Dubliners opening for them. Rory’s brother Donal was taken aback by Ashton’s interpretation of his late brother’s guitar playing stating ‘I like the way you put your own slant on Rory’s music, you don’t just copy him’. The band consisted of Gerry, Lou Martin, Brendan O’Neill, Mark Feltham and Dennis Greaves, all who at the time played in the band Nine Below Zero. Gerry and Brendan played on Ashton’s ‘Fang It! album with Greaves producing it. The album received great reviews and won many awards for ‘Album of The Year’ in a host of magazines.

Italian guitar company Liutart then asked Ashton to design his own signature guitar which he uses to this day with the configuration based on his favourite classic guitars – Gibson Firebird, Danelectro and Fender Telecaster pickups. Ashton called this ‘the ultimate slide guitar’.

Since then Ashton has been touring Europe with many acts including The Yardbirds, Johnny Winter, Peter Green, Slade, The Sweet, Canned Heat, Magnum, The Troggs and headlining his own shows. He has also played dates in England with Van Morrison, Robin Trower, Jeff Healey, Tony Joe White, Walter Trout and 15 arena shows, including Wembley, with the legendary Status Quo with Francis Rossi asking him about co-writing and Rick Parfitt wanting some slide guitar tips. Ashton has shared the bill twice with Joe Bonamassa, once at Birmingham NEC for Music Live and once at a guitar festival in Sweden. Ashton has performed at guitar shows appeared twice on Czech National TV, ZDF TV in Germany and in Bulgaria on Slavi’s Show, Slavi being the ‘Bulgarian Jay Leno’ with an audience of two million. This coincided with Ashton’s concert for the American Chamber of Commerce celebrating American Independence Day, 50 years of Bulgarian occupancy and the 50th anniversary of the Stratocaster, the show being  organised by Fender Bulgaria  July 4 2004.

Three years running he played at Deep Purple keyboardist Don Airey’s charity show near Cambridge, England with members of Whitesnake Bernie Marsden, Mickey Moody and Neil Murray, plus Uli John Roth, Robert Hart and Jimmy Page’s first choice for Led Zeppelin vocalist Terry Reid. Don has played on two of Ashton’s albums ‘Prohibition’ (alongside Chris Glen and Ted McKenna from Sensational Alex Harvey Band, Ian Gillan, Michael Schenker Group) and ‘Radiogram’ which also features guest appearances from Kim Wilson (Fabulous Thunderbirds), Robbie Blunt (Robert Plant), Mark Stanway (Magnum, Phil Lynott’s Grand Slam) and Mo Birch (Robert Plant, Go West, Paul Rodgers, Culture Club). Ashton has recorded eight albums, some with special guests mentioned above.

Ashton has been invited onstage with some of the greatest blues and rock musicians including ex Black Crowes Marc Ford who also asked him to play lap steel on a studio session in Los Angeles. They also played three duo shows together.  He jammed with Walter Trout, the legendary Canned Heat and Hubert Sumlin at blues festivals in England and Germany, bassist extraordinaire Jerry Jermott (BB King, Aretha Franklin) and Cactus and former Vanilla Fudge bassist Tim Bogert in Los Angeles and he even sat around David Crosby’s dining room table trading licks on acoustic guitar with the former Byrd’s legendary singer, songwriter. Jackson Browne and Robert Plant have both commented favourably on Ashton’s playing and both been part of his audience. Ashton has even been known to sit around former Rainbow and Alcatraz singer Graham Bonnet in his living room, playing and singing Beatles songs together! He’s also played with Steely Dan’s Elliott Randal and former Jethro Tull’s Mick Abrahams at a fund-raising show in England. Tull’s former drummer Clive Bunker was Ashton’s first UK drummer and Ashton played two shows with ex Rick Wakeman singer Gary Pickford-Hopkins.

During a tour of Spain, Ashton found himself jamming with former Wings drummer Geoff Britten who played on ‘Venus and Mars’. In Austin Texas, he was invited onstage with the hierarchy of the Austin scene including Derek O’Brien, Malford Milligan, Chris Duarte, Roscoe Beck and Frosty.

Eric Johnson’s bassist Chris Maresh joined Ashton on a 2018 German tour with Welsh drummer Chris Sharley from the 70s band Sassafrass. Budgie’s Burke Shelley gave Ashton a CD to learn their songs as they were possibly looking for a replacement guitarist at one stage. Shelley’s blues band opened for Ashton at a Christmas party at Tawe Delta Blues Club in Swansea, Wales. They were introduced by Dire Straits and Rockpile drummer Terry Williams.

Ashton’s first Czech Republic gig was with BB King at Golem Blues Festival, where he was the only other musician apart from King’s entourage  allowed in the dressing room prior to his performance. Ashton has recorded nine albums, some with special guests mentioned above.

Gwyn Ashton’s critically-acclaimed release ‘Solo Elektro’ saw him reinvented as an alternative progressive blues-rock solo artist with elements of 60s garage rock, psychedelia, acoustic roots and some good old-fashioned rock ‘n’ roll influences. The follow-up power-duo album – 2019’s Sonic Blues Preachers features ex Bon Scott Fraternity drummer John Freeman.

An inductee into the South Australian Music Hall of Fame for recognition of his contribution of sharing original Australian music with the world, Ashton’s show is retro with a modern evolution as he crosses the boundaries between indie rock and the blues, mixing his electric set with acoustic lap side and steel-bodied resonator guitars along the way. His two-hour show takes his audience on an eclectic musical mesmerising story-telling journey, as he engulfs and engages them in a hypnotic musical adventure, showing music has no boundaries.
Gwyn Ashton has been hauling his beaten up 1930s National steel guitar around the world for more than 20 years. Influences of his acoustic-based singer/songwriter ‘Roots, Blues & Beyond’ show are drawn from Mississippi Delta blues, ballads, and eastern music. Ashton is equally at home playing a Hawaiian Weissenborn hollow neck lap slide, resonator and 12-string guitars as he is playing a loud rock & roll set.

About Chris Finnen
Chris Finnen’s family emigrated to Australia in 1967. He had begun playing guitar as a child and was attracted to the blues before he reached his teens. After playing professionally for some time he also began singing, his light, high-pitched voice offering an unusual take on his blues repertoire, which was broad based, drawing in music as diverse as that of Indian, Celtic and Native American origins. Finnen skilfully and tastefully blended these forms around a blues core. Finnen, who also plays percussion, lived and worked in Melbourne, Darwin and Perth before choosing to settle in Adelaide. In the late 80s he began an association with the Indo-fusion band, Indian Pacific, working with singer Dyah Singh, and he has also played with Colin Offord’s Great Bowing Company.
Recognition for Finnen’s work has brought him national and regional guitar awards and 1995 saw him inducted into the SAMIA Hall of Fame. In the early 00s, Finnen was still touring to considerable acclaim, appearing solo and with his Blues Band, members of which have included bass players Dirk Dubois and Michael Winter and drummer John Freeman. He has also worked with Phil Manning and Matt Taylor and in duo with guitarist Joe Lang and with Sherilee Hawkins. Among his own compositions are ‘Weepin’ Spell’, ‘Horn Rimmed Hoodoo’ and ‘Old Dog New Tricks’.

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