It’s always a pleasure and a privilege to host a visit from one of Brecon’s favourite bands, the Washboard Resonators. Their ability to deliver a wonderful, friendly, good-time evening’s entertainment is legendary in these parts – so much so that tickets sold out almost immediately they were announced, and the majority of the capacity audience were already fans, and enthusiastic repeat visitors. A few people were seeing them for the first time – and were in for a real treat…

Introduced as usual by our fine compere Mr Paul Keddle, the Washboard Resonators took to the stage and immediately launched into their characteristic old-time jazz-ragtime-skiffle sound, with some irresistible up-tempo numbers: ‘Streamlined Rag’ and ‘Sweet Georgia Brown’. The audience’s feet were tapping right from the start, and continued to do so throughout the evening.

Martyn Roper

Martyn Roper’s skillful and authentic playing on resonator guitar, banjo and ukulele provides the foot-stomping rhythmic pulse to the songs, whilst Jack Amblin’s extraordinary dexterity on washboard, snare drum, cymbals, kazoo, bones, jug, whistles… (and just about anything else you might care to mention) adds an extra dimension of characteristic charm and rhythmic sophistication to the mix.

Jack Amblin

Their playing tonight was extremely accomplished, as they traded solos with one another, at times taking the volume right down for some delicately complex percussion and guitar work… and then back up again for some full-on dueling ragtime kazoos.

They are incredibly knowledgeable about the heritage of the music they play, with some fascinating excursions into the worlds of Blind Boy Fuller, The Original Dixieland Jazz Band, and 1920’s pastiche Hawaiian slide guitar.

Despite paying due homage to many of these old-time jazz-blues greats with a tastefully chosen repertoire of classic songs, the Washboard Resonators nevertheless have a way of making the sound uniquely their own, injecting loads of humour, fun, and plain silliness into proceedings, never failing to charm and bring a smile to people’s faces. Their self-penned numbers such as ‘Polly won’t you give me everything’ are of such high quality that they fit right in with the classics.

Jack and Martyn’s voices blended well for some lovely harmony singing – one particular highlight of the evening being a gorgeously poignant acoustic rendition of the old Carter Family country song ‘Bury me under the weeping willow’. But there was also plenty of authentic blues to keep the club members happy, with Martyn using the slide guitar to good effect, as they treated us to excellent renditions of ‘Sitting on top of the world’ and ‘Key to the highway’.

A truly memorable highlight of the evening was Jack’s delightfully delicate soulful singing and snare-drum brushwork on ‘Isn’t this a lovely day to be caught in the rain’ – taken to a whole new level by his amazing tap-dancing!

After a well-earned encore, the audience left with smiles on their faces, having been charmed and transported to a stylish bygone era, and thoroughly entertained along the way.

This was the last stop on Jack and Martyn’s current tour, so we wish them both a good and thoroughly well-deserved rest. They’re welcome back in Brecon anytime, and their growing reputation here will guarantee then a warm reception.

As ever, many thanks to the wonderful Muse for their hospitality, and to everyone involved in making this gig possible – and to the audience for turning out and helping to support local live music.

Photos by Barry Hill
Review by Jim Kerslake

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