Damon Fowler & Friends – Live at the Palladium | Album Review

Damon Fowler & Friends – Live at the Palladium

Landslide Records


10 tracks – 79 minutes

Florida’s Damon Fowler is a fabulous guitar player who is overdue for major recognition of his work. He started playing guitar at age 12 and quickly developed an affinity for the lap steel, dobro and particularly the slide guitar. He started gigging around clubs in the Tampa Bay area where he first gained recognition.  He has worked with a vast array of blues greats including Jeff Beck, Johnny Winter, Gregg Allman, Delbert McClinton and many others. He also was a member the Dickey Betts Band and Butch Trucks’ Freight Train.

Live at the Palladium is his 9th album and his first live recording. His 2009 album, Sugar Shack, on Blind Pig Records gained him some major recognition and was followed by two more albums on that label prior to the demise of Blind Pig. The music on this album was recorded at St. Petersburg, Florida’s Palladium Theater. In addition to his guitar, Damon does all the vocals. Other members of the band include Dan Signor on keyboards, Justin Headley on drums, and Chuck Riley. Jason Ricci joins in on harmonica on five tracks and Eddie Wright who co-wrote tracks 8 and 9 with Damon joins in on guitar on those two tracks and on the final cut. the album consists of eight originals written or co-written by Damon and two covers.

Damon rips off a guitar run to kick off the set and quickly moves into a funky “It Came Out of Nowhere”, which will quickly put you in mind of a Gregg Allman- styled southern rock sound. Dan Signor’s piano is a standout on the cut as well.

The first cover is Guy Clark’s “The Guitar”. Opening with a quiet guitar run, the song is a spoken word story of a discovery of an old beaten-up guitar that was found in the window of a pawn shop. When played the guitar unveiled an unexpected majesty (well demonstrated by Damon) that he could not quit playing and he wonders if the guitar was playing itself. And it ends with a touch of the supernatural thrown in, perhaps in the vein of a “Crossroads” story.

Fowler advises that “I’ve Been Low” noting that there are “times when I am happy, times when I cry”. Justin’s drum provides a driving beat with Dan’s piano again providing strong backing as Damon lets loose with a throbbing guitar run in the latter part of the song.

Jason Ricci joins on “Some Things Change” offering a driving harmonica accompaniment to Damon’s guitar. Ricci continues to shine on a slow, passionate “Don’t Feel Like Going There Today” perhaps expressing a bit of depression, but nevertheless an engrossing piece of music for his audience. Damon rolls out the blues as he laments the “Tax Man” keeps calling him on the phone, but he is never home. He states that “I am not sure what I owe.” Ricci’s harmonica cries throughout. He cites at the end of the song that it is a true story.

Little Walter Jacobs’s “Up the Line” is the final cover with Ricci obviously taking Walter’s harmonica lead in a rousing tune as Damon sings “I’m cuttin’ out, baby / Girl I’m goin’ up the line / If I stay another day / you’re goin’ to drive me out of my mind”. Damon again cuts loose with a fabulous guitar run and Justin keeps a driving beat going.

Eddie Wright joins on “Fruit Stand Lady”, a bouncy little tale about picking up fresh fruit from a little lady selling at a stand alongside of the road and notes that “she is fine and she is mine”. “I can’t get enough of her peanuts.”  “Old Fools, Barstools and Me” has a country blues feel as Damon relates “that I can’t stand people, but I can’t stand being alone”.  the song starts low and slow and builds to a crescendo.

The album ends with an almost twelve-minute version of Damon’s song “Sugar Shack”. Jason Ricci rejoins the band, Damon lets loose with some excellent slide work, and the rest of the band joins in on the jam.

Damon’s vocals can bring thoughts of Gregg Allman or Damon’s friend, Mike Zito. His guitar work is certainly entirely his own style but can be compared to music from Warren Haynes. And the album is beautiful southern soul.

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