BluesWax Spotlight On
The Damon Fowler Group
February 9, 2013
By Gary Weeks
It might have been a chilly night in Atlanta, Georgia, but the Damon Fowler Group was certainly heating up the nightclub Blind Willie’s with their organic-driven roots music.
It was just down to a simple rhythm section of bassist Chuck Riley and drummer James “Big Country” McKnight. Just having these two musicians alone was enough of an explosive engine room to let guitarist/vocalist Damon Fowler cut loose with music coming straight out of the heart of Americana.
Fowler finely hones his craft of writing strong original material. What sets him apart from his brethren is the choice of cover tunes that reflect his love for country. Rather than trotting out the predictable songbook standards which have become all too commonplace among musicians tearing it up on the club circuit, Fowler dives deep into the chest to unfurl rarely heard musical treasures that are really true country gems.
That kind of exploration with swamp-rock bluesy licks that would even make John Fogerty smile is all the formula Fowler needs to entertain an audience; his guitar work doesn’t rely on effect pedals and fancy gimmickry. His fleet-fingered fretwork is inspiration enough for any guitarist to realize that music like this comes from the soul and doesn’t need make-up to get its point across.
As much as he can make a Les Paul guitar smoke, the real joy was seeing him switch up to lap steel and glass bottleneck slide guitar playing. The slide synthesizes the aspects of Derek Trucks, Warren Haynes, and the late Duane Allman. While Fowler always encourages people to shake their stuff on the dance floor, it wasn’t until he unfurled his original barnyard grind of “Lonely Blues” that filled the dance floor to capacity. His slide fretwork mastery captures him at his strongest blues essence. And sometimes it makes you wonder if Fowler himself met Robert Johnson at the crossroads to get a mojo bag of licks dropped by a black cat in some shotgun shack.
And speaking of Robert Johnson, Fowler had no problems in rocking the Johnson composition “Hot Tamales” up to audience satisfaction and even paying tribute to Hot Tuna by injecting “Keep On Trucking Mama” in some spots. His band was given plenty of solo space when he tackled the other Johnson standard “Rollin And Tumblin,” which was a perfect showcase for Damon’s lap steel slide that danced like a drunken pixie across the strings. Damon’s own “Sugar Lee” was another boogie pleaser that could chase the chickens out of the barn with slide work slathered with enough grease and bourbon that made you feel you were heading home to the Dockery Plantation.
Sure the youngster admits his love for country music and may stray from the blues a bit. But he can come back to it with a force and he did just that when he ended the night with hot lap steel playing on the old Elmore James warhorse “Shake Your Moneymaker,” which couldn’t of ended the night on a better note.
It’s refreshing to see a caliber of a musician to come along as Damon. Not having to rely on the same old clichés that can cause a blues live act to becoming stale, Fowler comes from that corner of Americana where it’s best to discover musical nuggets in its darkest swamps. He seems to have the shovel to dig for them.
Gary Weeks is a contributing writer at BluesWax.
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