Damon Fowler Has Earned A Big Reputation Among Guitarists

by Bill Monahan

Blues fans can find respite from the frigid winter weather this weekend, warming up to Southern Blues sounds of young blues phenom Damon Fowler, performing Saturday with his power trio at the Simcoe Street Theatre in Collingwood.

As a genre, authentic blues is in good hands these days with a cohort of young players who have the knack of infusing this venerated music with a respectful blend of its roots and personal feeling.  In this area just this past year, we’ve enjoyed exceptional blues from young artists Conor Gains and Jenie Thai, and now Damon Fowler brings another exciting performer to watch.

A Florida native, Fowler began playing guitar at the age of twelve.  One of his earliest influences was Jeff Healey.  He quickly developed a style that is equal parts tradition and originality, applying it to acoustic and electric guitar, dobro and lap steel, with an emphasis on slide work.  He began gigging as a support act and attracted enough notice that his first, self-released album was produced by Rick Derringer.

As a solo he opened for artists that included several blues legends such as Delbert McClinton, Buddy Guy, Johnny Winter, Edgar Winter, Jeff Beck, and many more.  His reputation spread.

In 2011 his career received a big boost when he joined up with Victor Wainwright, J.P. Soars, Chuck Riley and Chris Peet to form a band they called Southern Hospitality.  Their subsequent album peaked at No. 9 on the US Billboard Top Blues Album chart.

Damon Fowler has become a critical darling, particularly with publications that specialize in guitar playing, with laudatory reviews and profiles appearing in a wide range of influential publications.

Billboard said of him, “He’s a formidable slide guitar player, and has also mastered lap steel and dobro as well as electric guitar; his playing throughout the album is deft. Indeed, Fowler may be so skillful that he prefers pickin’ tasty to larger-than-life guitar heroics.”

While his slide playing and artistic discretion has set him apart as a guitar player, he is also praised for his song writing.  Living Blues said, “Fowler is as expressive a songwriter as he is a singer and instrumentalist. He’s preaching an otherworldly, Americana-themed gospel from a six-stringed pulpit. He is a roots guitar guru in the making.”

Guitar Player magazine said “to combine facile fervor on a Tele, a lap-steel, and a flattop with a truly compelling vocal style and soulful songwriting—that’s something rare in an artist of any age. It’s even more impressive when such maturity and authenticity come from a 25-year-old like Damon Fowler.”

Now he is out touring with his power trio, with Chuck Riley on bass and James McKnight on drums.

Damon Fowler seems ideally suited to the taste of modern blues fans, with a repertoire that ranges beyond the blues and a style that resonates with authenticity.  In addition to his originals he applies his talents to songs by the likes of Elvis Costello and admits to great admiration for Willie Nelson.  In his hands the traditional blues which is the foundation of all American pop music is set comfortably within the context of the modern music it has inspired.

Damon Fowler at The Simcoe Street Theatre, Saturday Jan. 20th.  Doors open at 7 p.m., show starts at 8 p.m.  Tickets are $70, available at violetsvenue.com.

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