Multi-talented roots and blues guitarist/singer/songwriter Damon Fowler has just launched his eighth solo album into the sultry swamp of “Alafia Moon” (Landslide Records).
One look at the moody riverscape of the album cover hints at the musical earthiness of its contents. Fowler, a Florida native, sets his lyrical sights here on the Alafia River, near Tampa, where he collected youthful memories of fishing trips and moonlit boat rides. (It also makes you wish for a vinyl-sized version, suitable for framing and wall hanging.)
But it’s Fowler’s guitar work, ranging from ethereal to swampy to rootsy rocking, that delivers the album. He knows how to create the spaces between the notes that let the music speak as forcefully as his vocals.
Everything here except “The Guitar” is original, a tribute to Fowler’s evolving skill as a songwriter, where music and lyric blend seamlessly, neither overwhelming the other. There are echoes of Mississippi Hill Country blues here, southern rock, country, a little R&B, all filled with soulful undertones.
On the two uptempo opening tracks, “Leave It Alone” and “I’ve Been Low” Fowler uses his considerable guitar skills (fierce slide and lap steel among them) to create a relentlessly rhythmic and hypnotic effect.
Then, with the poignant title track, you can smell the mossy Alafia riverbanks, feel the humid air, and inhale the haunting lyrics imbued with the sensuousness of a full moon. It’s a personal journey to revisit youthful memories, floating on the currents of Fowler’s liquid guitar.
“Make the Best of Your Time” shuffles through a little day-to-day philosphy; “The Guitar,” the album’s only cover, is a touching acoustic tale of an old guitar in a pawnshop; “Hip To Your Trip” uses a magical slide to make the tasty journey; “Some Things Change” rocks a little harder with T.C. Carr’s harp and Betty Fox’s backing vocals for support; “Taxman” is not the Beatles’ whimsical tune, but a tough blues about a tough date with the taxman; “Wanda,” however, is a bit of whimsical barstool philosophizing about the lady sitting nearby with a gun in her purse and bottle of pills. The album closes with Fowler telling the story (“The Umbrella”) of a very early road gig with just one customer, followed by a song dedicated to that moment, “Kicked His Ass Out.”
“Alafia Moon” is a an excellent outing, filled with creative songwriting, gritty vocals, sublime guitar work, and crackling backers Chuck Riley (bass), Justin Headley (drums), T.C. Carr (harmonica), Mike Kach (keyboards), and Betty Fox (backing vocals).
This is honest music, intense and impassioned, meant to be savored and absorbed.
Here’s an interview with Fowler in American Songwriter.
Here’s the video of the title track, “Alafia Moon”
- Leave It Alone
- I’ve Been Low
- Alafia Moon
- Make The Best Of Your Time
- The Guitar
- Hip To Your Trip
- Some Things Change
- The Umbrella
- Kicked His Ass Out