With their vintage look, stage full of instruments and deft musicianship the Washboard Resonators took their audience back to the 1940’s and 1950’s with their covers and pastiche songs.
The Leeds-based duo are Jack Amblin on washboard, drums, percussion, jug, vocals and tap-dancing, and Martyn Roper playing guitar, banjo, ukulele, kazoo, jug and vocals.
Their spirited set took in blues, jazz, ragtime, skiffle and gothic sensibilities.
The duo’s sound drew from diverse sources that ranged from early blues, comedy, music hall, and the songs and sounds of Blind Willie McTell, Lonnie Johnson, George Formby, Blind Boy Fuller and Tampa Red.
Other acts would have turned these songs into museum pieces, ready for academic study, but the Washboard Resonators threw fun and a good time feel into the mix as well.
They started with their own The Sweetest Rose, a gentle introduction to the duo’s stage act, before the more raucous sounds of pieces such as Much Too Tight and Scrub that Thing showed the music hall and variety beginnings of many of their songs.
An interpretation of Duelling Banjo’s for Martyn Roper on banjo and Jack Amblin on washboard showed both the humour in the group and their seriously well developed musicianship.
Tap Dancing Tom was a vaudeville piece that blended bold rhythmic dobro, a story straight out of PG Wodehouse, and some great tap-dancing.
Blue Waltz Yodel, one of the songs that the group recorded at Sun Studios in Memphis, had a more a rockabilly ballad feel to it, while the auto-biographical The Sun Always Shines in Yorkshire and Wales showed the close harmony singing that the duo have developed over the years, and was a good showcase for the acoustic surroundings of St Mary’s.