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|Waz and his band, bassist Scooter Owen and percussionist Dave Major plus guitar regulars Peter Fidler and Dave Moll, have established themselves as one of Melbourne's more popular pub bands, rocking venues with their own blend of country rock, as well as backing artists Johnny Green & Grunter (Blues Cowboys), Tracey Bunn (Toe Sucking Cowgirls) and Den Hanrahan. The bands popularity has been growing steadily over the last two years and their high energy acoustic driven country blues has recently been catching the attention of established artists such as Bill Chambers and Neil Murray.
The band has become regulars on the festival circuit and the gigs with country artist Rob Luckey and rocker Ray Hoff, as well as backing Tracee Bunn, have placed the spotlight on the high level of musicianship within the band. They also recently partnered up with Den Hanrahan from Canberra, another emerging songwriter, showcasing Waz's and Dens songwriting in partnership shows.
The new CD, Watermelon, has Waz and the now renowned rhythm section that forms the main band joined in the studio by lap steel virtuoso, Peter Fidler. Ccompleting the all star line up, is one of Melbourne's best country guitarists/pianists, Dave Mole. These two great guitar players playing alongside Waz makes for some great moments - reminiscent of the famous Allman Brothers.
Waz's own skillfull blending of the edgy and raw style honed in the grunge scene with his traditional knowledge of acoustic instrumentation showcases the guitar playing savvy of a seasoned performer.
The songs on this album have raised the bar yet again and stand out tracks, The Plainsman, Back Again and Long Time Coming, show a maturity and understanding of a true country rock balladeer. With a strong desire to emulate the songwriting prowess of artists such as Delbert McClinton, Buddy Miller and Jim Lauderdale, this recording also sees a maturation in his songwriting style.
|Waz's unique style is born out of many varied associations over his career. As a teenager growing up in Melbourne's outer eastern suburbs, Waz discovered his neighbor to be none other than Harvey James, who planted the first blues seed in Waz. Some of Harvey’s acquaintances were renowned players of the time and it was no surprise to find Waz eavesdropping on Arial rehearsal sessions.
The real lessons arrived a few years later via his high school music tutor, American, Greg Hildebrand, one of Australia's premier Bluegrass performers. Passing on ye olde art of the 'rolling thumb' and other string picking tips, Hildebrand soon encouraged Waz to join him and others on stage at the Green Man Club in Malvern, a popular Blues Venue in the late 70s.
There Waz learnt the standards and polished his act, eventually sharing bills with the Bushwhackers and Bluesman Dutch Tilders.
By the mid 80s, Waz approach to his instrument had shifted. With friends he joined anarchic party band, Black Ruxton, whose punk-with-a-smile performances were welcomed by pub audiences. Discovering a flange pedal and a songwriting talent of his own, Waz soon put together his own outfit Brokenhead, a noisy trio that managed to bridge the gap between Crazy Horse and the Melvins. Over the next three years Brokenhead surfed its own "grunge" wave, issuing a fistful of EPs/singles on the Sydney indie Label Waterfront, one of which, the 'Come Anytime' 7 inch climbed to #3 on the US college charts in 1990.
Meanwhile, the band warmed local stages for the likes of Lemonheads and The Aints while funding a self released album on the Destroyer label through Shock Records.
Following Brokenheads demise, Waz packed his trusty jazzmaster and headed off to the US where he rediscovered the beauty of the Blues, playing with a myriad of house bands along the West Coast, culminating in support sets for Guitar Shorty at Harvels in Santa Monica.
Missing home and needing a backing band to flesh out a new cache of tunes, Waz returned to Melbourne and quickly assembled a group consisting of cello bassist Ashley Winn and former Bad Boy Batacuda drummer Mark Grunden. In 1998, Fulltronic was born.
In one raw, late night session, the band then recorded a ten track album at Birdland Studios, overseen by producer Lindsay Gravina. The result was "a debut that married original contemporary blues with a new groove and a sprinkling of covers including a rousing remake of ZZ Tops 'Blue Jeans'" [Steve Tauske writing for Beat].
Since 2000 Waz has released two previous albums as The Waz e James band; 'Calm Before The Storm' in 2000 and then in 2004 a return to roots music, 'Hair Of The Dog'. With the imminent release of his most accomplished album yet 'Watermelon', Waz is poised to reestablish himself in the Australian music scene. No stranger to the independent charts, this one time Waterfront artist is back on the open road and playing his heart out.
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