Damon Fowler & Friends Live at the Palladium
Live at the Palladium
A very special night this turned out to be. Singer, songwriter, and guitarist Damon Fowler and his band tore it up, threw it down, stomped on it, and on occasion smoothed it over at their show in St. Petersburgh, Florida this past July. Live at the Palladium presents ten of the concert’s songs in a perfect sequence and clear sound. The album follows Alafia Moon, Fowler’s highly acclaimed 2020 studio release. But Fowler and his rhythm machine, bassist Chuck Riley and drummer Justin Headley, operate best in front of an audience, stretching out on a blues, or a heady hybrid of blues, rock, and soul. It’s no wonder a full third of his nine solo albums were cut live. Augmented here by keyboardist Dan Signor on every song, harp ace Jason Ricci on half, and Fowler’s songwriting partner, Ed Wright, on guitar for three, you feel these performances in your bones.
Florida born and rooted, Fowler sings and plays his music full of distinct Southern nuance and wet heat. But halfway into “Tax Man,” you can imagine sitting in Rosa’s Lounge on Chicago’s north side, listening to what Fowler declares to be a true story of distress. Opening with couplets of elastic, sonorous notes, Fowler entices Ricci, who howls as if an old coot Windy City hurricane, and flutters like a hummingbird just fed. The effects of it all are striking. In “Some Things Change,” a barreling midnight train of a blues, Ricci goes off the rails as Fowler lets notes rip forth that could draw blood. By their incredible interplay, Ricci deserves feature billing.
Fowler has been compared to his friend and sometime producer Tab Benoit. While their finesse and natural passion are similar, Fowler seems to reach wider. And, although he’s proficient on a variety of stringed instruments such as lap steel and dobro, he wisely relegated himself to electric lead and slide guitar at this show. Guy Clark’s “The Guitar” does provide some country-swing, one of a few reprieves from the overall intensity. But it remains one of ten in which Fowler shows exactly what he has to offer on that guitar. Fowler plays deft, brilliant circles around intoxicating melodies. In the grinding “I’ve Been Low, I’ve Been High,” he slides into Warren Haynes territory, revealing an affection for The Allman Brothers Band and its guitarists that ran from inspiration to participation. Fowler had joined Allmans drummer Butch Trucks in the latter’s Freight Train band, and when Trucks passed on, original Allmans guitarist Dickey Betts picked Fowler up.
But Damon Fowler deserves the spotlight. Twelve minutes of the blood spiking “Sugar Shack,” which ends this altogether breathtaking ride, proves it.
Tom Clarke for MAS