Singer, songwriter, and guitarist Damon Fowler made quite a splash with his 2009 Blind Pig debut Sugar Shack, charming critics with his mature and polished mix of blues, Southern soul, and roots-rock. Truth is, by the time that Fowler hooked up with the good folks at Blind Pig, he was already a veteran artist with a decade of experience in the trenches of Florida's competitive music scene, as well as a couple of indie albums under his belt.
The final proof, as they say, is in the grooves, and Fowler's big-league sophomore effort, Devil Got His Way, has grooves a plenty. Fowler still pursues his singular blend of Dixie 'n' Delta, but with a little more shine and assuredness, and a quantum leap in his already impressive songwriting chops. It's Fowler's warm, twang-filled vocals and stellar fretwork that draw you in, where his lyrical tales of hard times, misfortune, and romance sucker-punch you into submission.
Damon Fowler's Devil Got His Way
The mid-tempo "We've Got A Good Thing" sets the table for much to follow on Devil Got His Way. A rocking lil' sucker with a hint of swamp-blues guitar and a funky, swaggering rhythm, the song perfectly fuses blues and soul with rock 'n' roll, coming out all the better for the effort. The title track slows down the tempo and amps up the audacity, Fowler's drawled vocals and vibrant six-string work tearing through the tale of malevolent influence with reckless aplomb.
Written by Chuck Prophet, "After The Rain" is an old-school styled Muscle Shoals soul ballad with plenty of emotion and Fowler's elegant guitarplay, with minor instrumental backing to get in the way of the singer's tear-drenched vocals. An inspired cover of Leon Russell's late-1970s hit "Tightrope" is entirely apropos, the song's fantastical lyrics delivered with a twang reminiscent of Russell's, with just a few shards of rattling guitar thrown in for good measure.
Cypress In The Pines
Fowler's "28 Degrees" is a power-blues number that reminds of Jeff Healey, with soulful vocals matched to an odd rhythm and punctuated by a circular riff and squalls of dark-hued notes. The song has its own menacing swagger, but it's Fowler's imaginative fretwork that adds the edge. The blustery "Cypress In The Pines" is cut from similar cloth, Fowler's Southern drawl adding to the rattle 'n' buzz of his swampy, Sonny Landreth-styled guitar, Chuck Riley's serpentine bass line, and drummer James McKnight's crashing drumbeats and cymbal play.
"Don't Call Me" picks up where Delaney & Bonnie & Friends left off all those years ago, Fowler fusing Memphis soul and roots-rock with gospel overtones to create an earthy, organic, entirely Southern style of blues-infused rock that sooths your tired eardrums and still manages to get your feet to moving. The spry "American Dream" is somewhat of an anomaly, the song kicking off with a ska-like rhythm atop which Fowler delivers an intriguing lyrical theme, the staccato rhythms matched by his insightful tale of stardom brought low by drugs and money.
The Reverend's Bottom Line
Damon Fowler's Devil Got His Way is a fine affair, the artist sounding more at home in his skin, more seasoned than his already mature-sounding debut album. Fowler's vocals are stronger, and while he is in no way a powerhouse shouter on the microphone, he brings the right amount of enthusiasm and soulfulness to each performance. His guitar-playing continues to improve, as does that intangible sense that makes everything sound 'right' when it's done.
While not a fretburner, not a soulman, and not a literary wordsmith, Fowler combines everything in equal measures, the result being an entertaining and impressive mix of music that will thrill any blues and blues-rock fan. (Blind Pig Records, released January 18, 2011)
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