REVIEW: Aynsley Lister’s gig shows a master craftsman at work

Aynsley Lister, supported by Red Butler, The Studio, The Hawth, Crawley, Valentine’s Day

I first experienced Aynsley Lister, by chance, a year or so ago at the Croydon Blues Festival.

He played with a band, didn’t sing and seemed uncomfortable in the big and somewhat arid setting of the Fairfield Hall.

However, his guitar playing was so impressive, I bored anyone who would listen about him for some weeks afterwards. Since then, he has won awards for best songwriter and best song in the 2014 British Blues Awards.

On this occasion, the setting was the intimate Hawth Studio. It was just Aynsley, singing and playing and providing his own percussion. And it was a treat. His voice turns out to be every bit as good as his guitar playing.

The material was a wondrously eclectic mix of trad blues, jazz, pop, ballads and his own songs. Aynsley looked slightly unnerved when he reappeared after the interval to a video of Eric Clapton. He need not have worried. His rendition of ‘Tears in Heaven’ removed the schmaltz of the original and left Clapton’s beautiful melody. His take on the Zutons’ hit ‘Valerie’ made it sound like a country and western song.

I felt vindicated by his inclusion of Sting’s ‘Fields of Gold’ as the hype around Sting tends to mean his skills as a song writer are overlooked. ‘Purple Rain’ was another high point for me.

If there is a better guitarist alive, I haven’t heard them yet. I think Aynsley Lister could have been (and probably still could be) a rock or pop star, but I suspect the compromises and hassle that comes with that level of adulation don’t appeal to him. There’s no affectation and no arrogance.

What you see and hear is a master craftsman at work. He’s a first-rate musician and will plough his own furrow, hopefully for many years to come.

Local band Red Butler deserve a mention for having the courage to support Aynsley – quite a daunting task. We got one half of the band only, but they still packed a punch. Young guitarist Alex Butler has talent in my view and should persevere.

Aptly-named singer Jane Pearce has a terrific, powerful, soul voice and great stage presence.