“John Fairhurst’s relentless and seemingly endless international touring schedules prove him to be first and foremost a live performer. Raised in the north of England he’s gone from Wigan to the World travelling broad musical landscapes. With undeniable blues influences and a nod to Ry Cooder, on his journey he’s studied classical Indian music, played slide guitar blues in Bangkok bars and come up with a distinctive instrumental and vocal style. Just in the last year he’s performed a gruelling 200 plus shows across 10 countries, completed a European tour with blues legend Johnny Winter and has released his latest recording the ‘Hungry Blues’ EP in conjunction with Toby Murray on drums and harmonica from Joe Strouzer. Fairhurst is nominated for The British Blues Awards 2013 ‘Best Original British Blues Song’.
The ‘Hungry Blues’ EP woodcut cover design betrays eclectic influences of an essentially bottleneck blues man, closely acquainted with dubro guitar and in possession of a deep Missippi style vocal , that owes something to the likes of Howlin Wolf. Interesting then, that his 2010 release ‘Joys of Spring’ was an instrumental album with Ravi Shankar inspiration and meditative undertones, taking his most dominant feature out of the equation and laying bare his ‘digital’ musicianship. ‘Hungry Blues’ by contrast leans into the vocals and Fairhurst lets the depth of his timbre loose over the tracks. Lyrically laced with wanderlust from deep within the soul this is the American road trip of Fairhurst’s world panoramas.
With a 70’s guitar infused beginning opening track ‘Up On The Hill’ has the wind in its hair and a fast paced sense of wide open plains and expectation. As the trip gets underway the resonating vocal calls out ‘take me away from here now’. Track 2 ‘The Snow Lies Deep’ has more of a picking guitar-led sound that spirals into ever playful riffery before roaming into exotic film score sounds, evocative of David Lynch eerie twighlight moods, yet dominated by the vocal.
Emerging from the dead of night ‘Light My Way Back Home’ exudes restless spirit and fire in the belly but has a philosophy within, stripping back to catchy rhythmic simplicity ‘one way to be your own master is to find truth deep in your soul’.
Track 4 ‘I Don’t Know’ is reminiscent of earlier recordings, with twangs of nostalgic, blues harp from Joe Strouzer , the soft lilts of Fairhurst’s hometown on vocals, and a skiffle pace bringing a true blend of influences. Ever the wanderer he takes a more jaded world weary angle, yet exudes sounds of freedom and an ever intricate and engaging guitar picking to the finish.”
Louder than War Reviews by Bryony Hegarty
Hungry Blues EP Review
“Fairhurst can sound as mellow as John Martyn or as wild as Captain Beefheart growling at his most deranged – mellifluous as warm golden honey one minute and then dark as the most menacing of thunderstorms the next. But he really does his talking with his guitar, and he sure as hell is one mean picker of the six-string – boy, does he know how to make that guitar sing!
With some mind-blowing electric blues predominating his latest collection of songs, such as the finger-blistering ‘Up On The Hill’, or the foreboding ‘The Snow Lies Deep’, he’s more than versatile and still finds time to throw in a more traditional sounding number, the shantyish ‘I Don’t Know’.
Fairhurst has to be one of the most charismatic characters on the blues circuit right now and certainly one of the most talented. As such he definitely merits further investigation.”
By Rich Deakin
Hungry Blues Review
“Here’s a cracking little five-track EP release from Wigan lad, John Fairhurst, who has been making records since 2008, when his “Joys Of Spring” release gained critical acclaim and since then has been ‘fine tuning’ his music on the road, including prestigious slots at Glastonbury, SXSW and Green Man festivals to name but a few.
On “Hungry Blues” his guitar, harmonica and vocals are mainly just in the company of James Breen’s drums, and together they kick-up a storm . . . to me maybe a meeting of Scottish alt-bluesman Dave Arcari and the likes of Mississippi Hill Country legends such as RL Burnside and Junior Kimbrough, with giants like Robert Johnson . . . a heady brew!
Things get off to an absolute rollicking start on the ‘ass kicking’ “Up On The Hill” with Fairhurst’s gravelly roar and some ‘dirty toned’ slide guitar work, complemented by the driving drum work of James Breen . . . what a great opener! He takes the pace down on the sinister “The Snow Lies Deep”, with some more delicate picked guitar here; “Light My Way” features some tasteful acoustic slide work and another deep and intense vocal.
The country blues of “I Don’t Know” is a joy . . . very Dave Arcari to me, and that’s no bad thing! Again it features James Breen on drums and percussion pushing things along behind Fairhurst’s guitar and harmonica here. The closing title track, “Hungry Blues” sees the duo augmented by Alex Beitzke on harmonium and backing vocals by the eight-strong Hungry Blues Choir . . . it’s a brooding, rambling tune with Fairhurst’s vocal riding on a nice guitar hook.
A very fine recommended release from a young man to look out for in the future, and with dates upcoming supporting blues legend Johnny Winter and lots of shows planned for 2013 it seems we will be seeing and hearing a lot of John Fairhurst.”
Blues in the North West Review (Grahame Rhodes)
Hungry Blues Review
“Blues can be a difficult genre to master. It is, in its very nature, based on restrictions in terms of structure, subject matter and a typical style. John Fairhurst, however, is far from typical.
Upon listening to the opening track of Hungry Blues, Up On the Hill, you would be forgiven for thinking you were hearing gritty blues from the deep south of America. This is why the first two words of Fairhurst’s biography are so surprising: Wigan native. A deeper search of his backstory sheds some light; years spent travelling the world has resulted in a potent blend of Mississippi bottleneck blues and heavy repetitive African rhythms.
Hungry Blues marks the fourth self-released collection of work for Fairhurst. The EP deals with the issues you would expect from a blues record – disconnection, hunger, longing and soul-searching. These themes are delivered through a deep growling vocal with more than a touch of Tom Waits about it.
It’s difficult to settle on exactly what makes this EP so different and more appealing than other blues records. It takes a number of listens, but something gradually becomes more noticeable. Fairhurst is not afraid to let his natural accent slip through, most noticeably on I Don’t Know, and what is created is an enthralling sound that is difficult to take your ears away from.
It is refreshing to listen to a UK bluesman who is pushing the strict boundaries of the genre. The British blues scene is arguably stronger now than it has been for many years, and John Fairhurst is doing everything he can to make sure people see him at the forefront of this movement. This bold new EP should only help cement his position
Review by Chris Penfold. Positive Reviews