East Side Slim
Damon Fowler – Sounds Of Home – Blind Pig Records, 2014
Damon Fowler – Sounds Of Home – Blind Pig Records, 2014
Sounds Of Home is Damon Fowler’s 3rd Bling Pig Records release, and his 4th if you count his work with the “Southern Hospitality” project alongside Victor Wainwright and JP Soars. Tab Benoit recorded and produced Sounds Of Home at his home in rural Louisiana. There is a certain commonality to the styles of both Tad and Damon, and judging by the quality of this release bringing Benoit into the project was an inspired choice.
Fowler, now in his mid-30s, is a native of the Tampa, Florida area, where he began performing professionally while only a teenager. Something of a quick study on guitar, he has become so adept, so skillful an instrumentalist over the years, that a 2008 Tampa-area best-of music poll named Fowler best guitarist, best slide guitarist, best lap steel player and best Dobro player. You get the picture; he’s very talented. But know this; while he can play in most any way he chooses, Damon’s sound trends toward tasty rather than showy.
Fowler is becoming an adept singer and songwriter, attaining the laid-back singing voice that is becoming his stock in trade while also developing a fine knack for observational storytelling. In fact, Damon wrote or co-wrote (along with Ed Wright and/or Tab Benoit) 8 of the 11 songs on the Sounds of Home album. Fowler’s songs travel along just about all the rhythmic highways of the American roots music landscape. The basecoat may be blues, but it is colored with myriad other shades and textures.
The Songs: (songwriters in parentheses)
1. Thought I Had It All – (Damon Fowler, Ed Wright)
--A song about some of the difficulties and temptations of road life, possibly? It's a tune with a heavy, rock-blues edge (the lap steel solo is certainly heavy), full of sinister undertones and dangerous vibes. The moral might be: be careful what you ask for.
2. Sounds Of Home – (Damon Fowler, Tab Benoit)
--The mid-tempo title track of the album, with an incessant heart-beat groove and Damon's reminiscences of home. Remember good readers, road life isn't always an easy life. Also, this tune features a talk-sing interlude from Big Chief Monk Boudreaux.
3. Trouble – (Damon Fowler, Ed Wright, Tab Benoit)
--Although there's a little too much rhythm section work going on to call this a true "late night mood piece", the song does have that sort of feel. Call it melancholy if you will, with lines such as "sparkle like a diamond, venom like a snake, the trouble light is shining".
4. Spark – (Damon Fowler)
--Here you go - a roadhouse bluesy-rocker that is still hangin' on to a bit of that ol’ swamp tone. I'd love to hear Delbert McClinton take a run at this sometime, but Damon brings the goods and then some. Dancers, start your engines!
5. Old Fools, Bar Stools, And Me – (Damon Fowler, Ed Wright)
--Hard drinking honky tonk blues, featuring clever use heavy chords and reverb to add an air of long-lost resignation to the tune. If only country radio was still country – Damon would have a hit on his hands with this cut. No matter, as it's a fine tune regardless. If the country cats won't take it, us blues cats will be happy to give it a home.
6. Where I Belong – (Damon Fowler, Tab Benoit)
--This song, featuring Tab Benoit on pedal steel, goes down as satisfyingly as front-porch lemonade on a sultry Saturday evening. Totally inviting in tone and texture, it makes you feel good while listening to it, which is a much more difficult task that you might think. It's a beautiful up-tempo finger-snapper of a song.
7. Grit My Teeth – (Damon Fowler, Tab Benoit)
--The tone on this is a little darker (nice pacing – album pacing is oh-so important), a little more dangerous (due in no small part to Fowler's lap steel interludes), with Damon exclaiming how one certain woman just isn't good for him to be around. I would imagine that most of us can empathize with this scenario – men and women alike.
8. Alison – (Declan Patrick McManus aka Elvis Costello)
--Now, this was real surprise; covering a tune from Elvis Costello. The interesting thing is, it works pretty darn well. It's not blues per se, but rather a really nice, heartfelt Americana-styled ballad. Think Sonny Landreth, but with the speed dialed back in order to reach more soulful environs.
9. TV Mama – (Johnny Winter)
--The songwriting credit really should go back to at least Elmore James, and really all the way back to Big Joe Turner. That said, Damon definitely built his version more closely on Johnny Winters' foundation. This one is slow-groovy and sweaty, and at least a wee bit menacing. Good stuff, especially that slide work! On a side note, I'm not sure how many younger listeners will understand the symbolisms used in the lyrics, as few of them will know anything about how tube-based televisions actually functioned. Then again, certain innuendos are universal, are they not?
10. Do It For The Love – (Damon Fowler, Ed Wright)
--Honky tonky - say isn't so! Let's call it swampy honky tonk to be more accurate. This is a pretty ballad with beautiful atmospheric slide guitar tones, as well as a laid-back, heartfelt vocal from Damon. This reviewer was swaying back and forth before the 1st minute of the tune had passed, and I'm betting you will be, too. Do it for the love; indeed.
11. I Shall Not Be Moved – (Traditional)
--What a great way to close out the album, pulling this old spiritual out of the garage and taking it for a spin. Damon's fingerpicked Dobro work comes to the front, and the song is performed by his band in a joyously back-porch manner. This one is stunning folks, simply stunning.
In the past couple of years, Damon Fowler has seen several milestones. He has married, he has become a father and he has seen his career expand greatly. That is positive roll indeed, and this review would suggest that Sounds Of Home will only add to the good fortune he has been experiencing (good fortune that is well deserved after many years a road-dog, and all the pain and heartache that can entail.) Blues fans, Americana fans, country fans, roots music fans in general – this albums (Sounds Of Home) is good music in the truest sense of the word. Throw away the genre titles and enjoy it for what it is – a superb album from Damon Fowler. Alright, it’s time to rate this bad boy. Sounds Of Home is receiving a well-earned rating of 4.00 on the STLBluesometer. Watch for Damon Fowler, or Southern Hospitality, at a venue near you.
For more information concerning Damon Fowler, see the following websites:
Lee Howland - aka East Side Slim