Damon Fowler & Friends – Live at the Palladium
This set is veteran bluesman Damon Fowler’s 9th solo & it’s a live one. The setting is St. Petersburg, Florida at the Palladium. It may not be the bedrock of blues like Tennessee, Mississippi, or Georgia but there are no restraints on where the blues can lay itself out & get some sun. Fowler’s band is a first-class ensemble adept at playing what’s required & then lighting the fuse for a jam.
Track 1 “It Came Out of Nowhere,” would’ve benefitted from some better live recording levels. There was some fine piano playing by Dan Signor in the break that I could hardly distinguish. Fowler’s vocals & lead guitar are upfront & superb. Fortunately, despite that glaring piano omission, the recording isn’t all that bad. The drums don’t overpower — they’re sharp & crisp. The opener isn’t a blues downer but a straight-ahead plead of having come from out of nowhere & it came from you.
The 79-minute 10-cut Live at the Palladium (Drops Jan 20–Landslide Records) captures some pulsating moments without deviating from the roots of the blues. Blues isn’t a happy joyous medium. It’s about sadness, loneliness, heartbreak, bad times, poor times, low-down feelings, too much booze, not enough booze, no funds, sticky change, damp dollars, & low self-esteem. It’s about kicking dogs, selling your soul cheap, having cheated, being cheated, being misunderstood, & losing your car keys since that’s where you sleep.
“The Guitar” has a different more positive take on the “crossroads” legend taking place in a pawn shop. Fowler sings with a Dante & the Evergreens (“Alley Oop”) conviction & turns a disarming blues into wonderful entertainment. Good storytelling. After a sizzling instrumental break that smokes it ends with a twist. There’s plenty of space in this tune to set the strings on fire with a dual lead guitar interplay.
“I’ve Been Low,” is typical blues. Fowler (formerly of Butch Truck’s Freight Train & the Dickey Betts Band) doesn’t have a deep Muddy Waters growl or thin Robert Johnson voice. Instead, he relies on an aggressive vocal steeped in blues brandy poured over ice cream & set afire. A sparkling raucous piano solo is buried in the mix again. The only flaw in this recording.
Fowler sings “Don’t Feel Like Going There Today,” again in a bluesy Dante & the Evergreens drawl that’s quite good. A totally original vocal application with the right intonation & makes Fowler sound a mile from other young blues vocalists.
The band features Jason Ricci (harmonica – 5 cuts), Eddie Wright (guitar – 3 cuts), Dan Signor (keys), Justin Headley (drums), Chuck Riley (bass) & Damon (lead guitar/vocals).
Fiery highlights: “It Came Out of Nowhere,” “The Guitar,” “I’ve Been Low,” “Somethings Change,” “Don’t Feel Like Going There Today,” “Tax Man,” “Up the Line,” & “Sugar Shack.”
B&W image by Daniel Boone. CD @ Amazon + https://www.damon-fowler.com/