IN MANY people’s eyes Andy Fairweather Low is the go-to guitarist to the stars.
It’s probably easier to list the major names he hasn’t worked with than those he has. Eric Clapton, George Harrison, Roger Waters, Van Morrison - all have turned to the genial Welshman to stand alongside them on stage as a reassuring presence and master of his instrument.
It comes as a major surprise then to hear assessment of his own abilities.
“I’m OK in a small place,” he said, “but don’t stick me in front of 10,000 people going ‘go on, show us what you can do’. I’ve been in an audience when a guitar player has left everyone transfixed - someone like Clapton - and believe me you immediately realise that they have something extra.
“I’d say I’m a good guitar player but then if you have been doing anything for more than 50 years you should be pretty good. The difference is that there’s good and then there’s great. There’s Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Wes Montgomery and then there’s a gulf, it’s a really big gulf.”
Music lovers may choose to argue with Andy’s assessment of his own abilities but even he can’t dispute he’s had a remarkable career from his early days as pop sensations Amen Corner to touring the world and more recently fronting his own band The Low Riders, with whom he comes to Darwen Library Theatre next Thursday.
For all he’s achieved, you feel that next week’s gig is something pretty special for Andy - after all it will be the first time that he and the band have played live in almost two years.
MAESTRO: Andy Fairweather Low (Picture: Judy Totton)
“I can’t think of a better place to come back to than Darwen,” said Andy, who recorded a live DVD at the venue back in 2007. “It has a dynamic all of its own and we need that at this time. I know we will be among friends.”
Like musicians everywhere, the pandemic hit Andy hard.
“I was really scared for a while,” he said,. “Since I started playing around 1966 I’ve always had a gig to go to whether it was the band I was in or for someone I was working with. There would always be dates to be played.
“When they said it might be three months at the start of lockdown I didn’t like the sound of it. If they’d told me you won’t get out for two years I think I’d have gone crazy.”
Unable to play live, Andy used lockdown to write and record a solo album which included spending three weeks at the famous Rockfield Studios.
“That’s something I could never have done if we hadn’t had lockdown,” he said. “I can’t write when I’m on the road. It’s not a Low Riders album it was just me and a drummer. It’s all being mastered now but I think it would be July at the earliest before it comes out.”
Although recorded in lockdown,the songs don’t reflect that difficult time. Instead they are deliberately upbeat.
“That was the main thing from the outset,” said Andy. “I have a little machine at home where I can put my ideas down on and I was determined that they should all have a beat to them.”
The sound Andy says is very much that of early rock and roll and even skiffle.
“Oh that’s that little bug of Lonnie Donegan,” he said referencing the great British skiffle pioneer. “Once that is in you, you’re done. He was for me very special. He was the first virus that got in and it’s still there.”
Andy goes on to share memories of playing with Lonnie Donegan on a tour with Van Morrison. During our conversation he also touches on times spent with Jimi Hendrix, BB King and many others.
“When you are with these special guys you never lose what they meant to you when you were growing up,” he said. “There is always a buzz being near them and watching them play.”
Andy’s Darwen date is the first of a series of shows for him and the Low Riders.
“We’ve had one days rehearsal in almost two year so I hope people will forgive us for being a little bit loose,” he laughed. “When we did rehearse, the first person to get something wrong was me - and it was on a song that I wrote.
“But that’s what you never stop practicing. There’s always something else to learn.”
Andy Fairweather Low and the Low Riders, Darwen Library Theatre, Thursday, February 3. Details from www.bwdvenues.com