Damon Fowler – Alafia Moon
Landslide Records – 2021
11 tracks; 52 minutes
Damon Fowler made his first album as a teenager in 1999 and since then has made a series of albums, a mixture of self-releases, three with Blind Pig and one with Tab Benoit’s Whiskey Bayou label. Now signed to Landslide, Damon returns with an album made with his regular band and friends on home turf on the Gulf Coast of Florida. Damon handles all lead vocals, guitar and slide and wrote ten of the eleven tracks, working with fellow slide master Jim Suhler on one, and there is one cover. Damon is joined by Chuck Riley on bass, Justin Headley on drums, Mike Kach on keys, TC Carr on harmonica, Betty Fox on backing vocals and Josh Helms on ‘bottles and background noise’.
Damon has always mixed things up and this album is no different with rockers, country-tinged ballads and soulful elements too. We start with two uptempo tunes: “Leave It Alone” lopes along with good interplay between TC Carr’s anguished harp tones and Damon’s slide work as he sings of the dangers of alcohol abuse; a rush of fleet-fingered slide propels “I’ve Been Low”, a song that relates the ups and downs of life. The title track shows off Damon’s distinctive vocals, well backed by the gospel tones of the organ work, Damon playing a strong solo mid-tune. The title “Alafia Moon” refers to the river Alafia which flows into the Tampa Bay and is, presumably, close to Damon’s home base.
A chunky R&B riff is at the heart of the message song “Make The Best Of Your Time”, Damon adding slide embellishments throughout. The sole cover is “The Guitar”, written by Guy Clark and Verlon Thompson, released on Guy’s 2009 album Somedays The Song Writes You. It’s a quirky song about a guy trying out an old guitar and finding that it enables him to play like he has never played before. Damon’s cover sticks close to the original with some outstanding acoustic picking and, if you aren’t familiar with the song, wait for the final section of the lyrics! The co-write with Jim Suhler is “Hip To Your Trip” features some great slide work, “Some Things Change” brings TC’s harp back for an uptempo number which certainly gets the toes tapping, “Taxman” is a slow blues with multi-tracked guitar work and the funky “Wanda” celebrates a local ‘character’.
If you see Damon live he often tells stories and that is reproduced here with a mainly spoken narrative entitled “The Umbrella”. It sounds like it is recorded live but must have been done in the studio (hence Josh Nelms’ previously mentioned credit). The tale recounts, at some length, the trials and tribulations of a touring band, and, in particular, an encounter with a drunk customer who insists on calling for “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida”. The inevitable result was that the bartender “Kicked His Ass Out” and a short piece with that title closes the album. Interesting to hear once, “The Umbrella” may well be a track that you skip on repeat playing of the album but, frankly, the previous 40+ minutes are well worth the purchase price.