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Damon Fowler - Devil Got His Way

Blind Pig Records

12 songs; 45:09 minutes; Suggested

Styles: Americana, Roots Rock and Roll, Swamp Rock

First, let me clear the air; secondly, let me fill the air. For clarity, this is not a Blues album. However, let me fill the air, again, with praises for Tampa FL area’s Damon Fowler. There is something very special here that Blues fans will enjoy - except for the purists still mad at Muddy Waters for going electric.

Because the incredibly entertaining Fowler is young (at 30), it’s written that his artistry is “in the making.” I disagree; he has arrived with this CD! We are well beyond the “one hit wonder” (or even two hit wonder) stage. His fifth album since 1999, “Devil Got His Way” showcases Damon’s maturity in song crafting: confident writing, audience winning singing, and masterful, crowd slaying melodic leads on six-string, slide, Dobro, and lap steel guitars.

Re-teamed with “Sugar Shack” producer Scott Cable, Fowler has written or co-written all but two of the songs. From the heart tugging title track to the bouncy metaphor in “Fruit Stand Lady” to the enlightening “Cypress in the Pines,” there is variety in styles and moods. Fowler is backed across nine songs only by long time bassist Chuck Riley and James McKnight on drums.

Underneath the swinging tempo and boisterous guitar riffs of the title track, there are three things that make this song genuinely creepy. First, Damon Fowler leaves it up to the listener's imagination to decide what happened to the people mentioned in this song when “the devil got his way”. Secondly, there is something decidedly dark about the way several brooding guitar notes linger, and sink ever lower and deeper, on this song's refrain. Third, and most insidiously of all, the sinister situations portrayed in this ditty are of the completely natural (rather than supernatural) sort: “Up to his neck in trouble, up to his ears in debt/Collectors are calling, but they haven't caught him yet/Turned his back on his family, said he can't afford to stay/The devil got his way!”

Typically, songs about persons getting drunk and partying are warnings, musical cautionary tales about the dark side of “the wild side.” “Once In Awhile” is a perfect honky-tonk number, however, characterizing one woman's night out as a release from her usual life: “All week long, she is prim and proper/She's going out tonight, and nothing's going to stop her!” Fowler isn't completely condoning, but he does joyously concede that “even good girls gotta let loose once in awhile!”

“You Go Your Way” was my first ear-worm, and it wasn’t even my favorite song. Almost the polar opposite of track five, “28 Degrees,” this breakup ballad has twice the tempo and pep, and none of the angst. The narrator seems almost happy to leave his lover--not because he's sick of her, necessarily, but because he's tired of living the frenetic, fast-paced life that she does. “I've got my job; you've got Saturday night,” he observes, and for a person such as Fowler describes, every night's Saturday night! “I hope your little party never ends,” Fowler sings, and he doesn't sound sarcastic when he does. If only all breakups could be as amicable, and as drama-free, as this song portrays.

For variety, there is a beautiful, slow ballad “After The Rain.” To surprise, Leon Russell's “Tight Rope” is covered with creative guitar, but you may prefer the original. For some Swamp, try “Cypress In The Pines,” a markedly non-majestic tribute to the rougher aspects of the woods--fire, snakes, and all--complete with growling bass guitar. And, to totally amuse, there is a fun honky-tonk tune at the end, “Happy Hour, which is a drunken sounding, instant sing-along-song (complete with burps) that will be tomorrow’s ear-worm.

While the variety may disappoint those wanting all songs to be like the killer title track, this is a superbly crafted CD. There is no one doing what Damon Fowler does, and he is doing it great!

Amy Walker contributed to this review.

Reviewer James "Skyy Dobro" Walker is a noted Blues writer, DJ, Master of Ceremonies, and longtime Blues Blast Magazine contributor. His weekly radio show "Friends of the Blues" can be heard Saturdays 8 pm - Midnight on WKCC 91.1 FM and at in Kankakee, IL. To See James “Skyy Dobro” Walker's CD rating system, CLICK HERE

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