Damon Fowler

Damon Fowler
Devil Got His Way

Blind Pig (B004D5BM78)

By Tony Del Rey
April 2011

It's been said that an artist has his entire life in which to compose his first work. While I am not familiar with his debut effort, I did partake of blues guitarist and singer, Damon Fowler's sophomore outing entitled, Devil Got His Way. Can't help but wonder if the guy didn't catch some heat from his label to "get busy on the new one." You know, to meet growing public demand for the next Damon Fowler project, whatever form it might take. It's a conversation that has no doubt transpired many times between an artist and his label/studio/publisher, dating as far back as cave men who began grunting the story of Gilgamesh to one another.

Unfortunately, creativity under a deadline can flaw even the most promising of endeavors, with the follow-up often falling on the short side of the golden measuring stick by which the first was gauged. I suspect this may be the case with Devil.

The primary component that suffers when the creative process is harried is the writing. Except for only a handful of cuts, I don't hear forces at work that constitute really great song writing. What I do hear are licks aplenty, but no hooks; solos abounding, but few ear-catching melodies or lyrics that venture beyond the basic blues canon. I know purists live for their straight-ahead blues, but the problem with these tunes is they seem to go out as predictably as they come in. As a result, the tracks have a tendency to go hurtling by, one after the other, without any sign posts along the way to mark the journey. Of the ten Fowler-penned tracks, only the slightly infectious, "You Go Your Way," stands on its own legs or shows any promise in terms of possible commercial appeal.

What remains of Devil Got His Way are a pair of covers written by professionals whose job it is to pen hits, or at least the potential for one. The better of these is "Tight Rope," the 1972 single produced by that top-hatted guru of funky old soul, Leon Russell. Here, the sheer meatiness of the material allows the band to stretch out, while at the same time staying true to the original recording. The stop-start tempo and off-balance ragtime feel that Russell baked into the song's DNA succeed at keeping the listener's ear entertained throughout its 3:40 running time. And while itís by no means a virtuoso performance, Fowler's guitar solo nicks Russell's whimsical keyboard run after the bridge nearly note for note. His work here is evocative and spare, providing just the right amount of ornamentation to send the song to a satisfying conclusion.

The other cover is a ballad entitled, "After The Rain." The authors are a couple of left-coast poet/musicians named Kurt Lipschutz and Chuck Prophet. Where Fowler found the original track, I'm not certain, but I can tell you that the presentation is breathtakingly beautiful. Most of the kudos go to Fowler's vocal performance. I never said the guy couldn't sing. His overall tone smacks of Paul Simon's somber world-weariness and Robert Palmer's wrinkle-free cottony smoothness. And it works well for him, particularly when the melodies are as sweet and soulful as this one is.

Suffice to say, the cover songs on Devil Got His Way are leaps and bounds better than the original material that surrounds them. Nowhere else on the disc does the band sound more effusive or as vibrant as they do on these tracks. I wish there were more of them. Perhaps an appeal to their record label, Blind Pig, to please refrain from cracking too smart a whip over the next Damon Fowler release date may be in order. After all, patience is not a dirty word.

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