Davy Knowles – Three Miles From Avalon
8 Tracks; 36:29 minutes
Davy Knowles is from the Isle of Man, in the heart of the Irish Sea between England and Ireland, much farther than three miles from Avalon, the mythical home of Ancient Britain’s Celtic priests. And apart from the title track, there is nothing ethereal or mystic about album. It is, simply, one of the best blues albums I have heard in years, and that includes from veterans and newcomers alike.
The CD could easily have been called Three Miles from America. Everything on this CD is firmly rooted in American rock, much the way the British Blues Invasion of the 60s was. You will hear influences from classic rock, gospel & spiritual, and even power ballad, but the blues is the bedrock on which Knowles built this album.
Knowles is an excellent guitarist who uses the instrument to serve the music, not overpower it. But it is his expressive, passionate voice that propels this CD to greatness.
Having said that, it’s a shame that the album starts with what may be the weakest track on the CD, the aptly named “Ain’t Much Of Nothing”. It’s not a bad song, but it doesn’t really give a hint of the excellent work to come. And it comes quickly.
The third track, “Falling Apart”, reveals Knowles authentic sound – voice, instruments, and arrangements. His vocals on this song are fantastic – he doesn’t try to show off his voice, he uses his voice to demonstrate his passion, which is deep and true.
By the time we get to the next track, “What You’re Made Of” (which should have been the opening one) the CD is in full flight. It starts with a syncopated guitar and then slowly layers the other instruments over it – first a very cool bass line, then drums, then a sweet Hammond organ played by the formidable Andrew Toombs, and finally, killer slide guitar played by Knowles himself.
The next stand out track is “Oxford MS”, and you can hear southern country blues through Knowles terrific slide, a repeating vocal motif reminiscent of the field hollers, underpinned by the strong strain of gospel. This is Knowles paying homage to the birth of the blues, and the track works on all counts.
Knowles does take a slight detour from Highway 61 with “Three Miles From Avalon”. But it is the same detour Cream took – you can almost hear Knowles catching up to Brave Ulysses. He plays and sings this song with the same commitment Jack Bruce and Clapton attacked their mystic explorations. The song may be shrouded in the mists of Avalon, but you can hear its blues heart beat rhythmically.
One of my favorite songs is the closing track, “What In The World”. This mournful tune wails its tail of woe with a crying guitar and bleeding organ trading pain and sorrow in a way that, ironically, lifts the listener to great heights.
I feel the need to emphasize once again the outstanding vocal work Davy Knowles unleashes on this CD. Every song is a virtuoso performance of blues and rock singing. The only thing wrong with this CD is that it has only eight tracks. I could listen to Davy Knowles and his superb band – Bryan Doherty on bass and backing vocals, Andrew Toombs on Wurlitzer and Hammond organ, and Michael Caskey on drums, percussion and backing vocals – all day.