Like Derek Trucks, JJ Grey, and Thomas Wynn, Damon Fowler becomes the latest Floridian who understands how to weave together blues, rock, country, and soul in a way that harkens back to the best of the Southern Rock Era during the late 60s and early 70s. Born and raised just outside of Tampa, Fowler started playing guitar at 12 and then moved to lap steel and dobro. He also began to develop his voice, both singing and songwriting, releasing three independent albums before signing with Blind Pig, the label that also released his previous album, Sugar Shack.
Although Sugar Shack fit right in with the blues records that Blind Pig has released over the years, it also featured three cover songs which displayed Fowler's wider vision. He cut two country songs - Billy Joe Shaver's "I'm Just An Old Chunk Of Coal", Merle Haggard's "Tonight The Bottle Let Me Down" - both in a revved-up style as well as a straight ahead take on the Amazing Rhythm Aces' "Third Rate Romance".
Devil Got His Way continues Fowler's growth. At his core, Fowler is a bar room/roadhouse guy. From the first notes, you get the vibe of sweaty dancefloors with lots of longnecks and looming cigarette smoke. "We've Got A Good Thing" packs an opening punch sounding a bit like Stevie Ray Vaughan. That song is followed by the title track which reveals itself as a slinky, slide-driven rocker.
The next two tracks are the album's only covers, and they are strong. Fowler strips Chuck Prophet's "After The Rain" back to its core soul roots sounding like Otis Redding. Next comes Fowler's cover of Leon Russell's "Tight Rope" augmented by some nice mandolin playing.
Fowler continues to shine throughout bringing to the song whatever it needs - be it piercing blues leads, grungy slide, or even some country picking. Songs range from menacing ("Cypress In The Pines") to playful ("Fruit Stand Lady" "Don't Call Me" and "You Go Your Own Way") to kinetic ("American Dream").
Fowler's vocals deserve special attention. Although known for his playing, his singing shows such soul and versatility he sounds like the offspring of Gregg Allman and Bonnie Raitt. There's a lot of Lowell George in him as well, but Gregg's ability to bring a little bluesy darkness is more in keeping with Fowler's sound.
Taken amongst his fellow Floridians, Damon Fowler remain a dark horse. He doesn't have Derek Trucks' audience or resume or even JJ Grey's. Being the son of Cowboy's Tom Wynn gives Thomas Wynn a bit of a head start as well due to his direct connection to the Southern Rock era.
Still, Damon Fowler's youth, energy, and creative growth curve indicates that he should continue to prove his worth amongst the standards set by this fine group of musicians. It's hard to imagine a performer that would be better from a roadhouse stage.
- Jim Markel
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