I had long heard about Davy Knowles, but honestly had never picked up one of his albums before receiving this one back in October. Several of my friends have told me just how good this guy is, and I was eager to get into the album and discover it for myself.
What I found is an artist with a deep love for the blues, who doesn’t mind pushing the envelope and blending in some rock to create an unusual sound. Knowles is not a purist, and that’s just fine by me. Pure blues is great, but I don’t mind listening to someone who has a particular sound in mind and brings it out.
As a native of The Isle of Mann, but who has relocated to blues drenched Chicago, Knowles mixes those sounds he grew up hearing with the more traditional sounds from The Windy City. The result is a very cool album, Three Miles From Avalon, on which Knowles has written all but one song. He is backed up by his core band of Bryan Doherty on bass and vocals; Andrew Toombs on Wurlitzer and Hammond organ; and Michael Caskey on drums, percussion, and vocals. “The Oh Yeahs” provide additional vocals as does Anthony Gravino who also adds some percussion as does Meghann Wilkinson.
I have to wonder how many blues songs start with the word “ain’t” or at least have it in the first line. Add another one to the list as Ain’t Much Of Nothin’ kicks off this album with a pounding pace. Within seconds it’s easy to see why Knowles has garnered so much approach and his blend of blues rock is exciting – and has got to be thoroughly satisfying when seen live.
Next up is What You’re Made Of, another driving song that relies heavily on Doherty’s bass and Caskey’s drums. Some purists might not like the influence of rock on his music, but I think there’s plenty of room for this style of blues. Knowles has a strong voice and plays a mean guitar!
The band slows things down on Falling Apart, adding a sense of poignancy and regret to the song. It’s one of those songs you expect to hear late at night when the singer bares his souls to anyone still in the club. Excellent song. Knowles keeps up the old-school feel with Never Gonna Be The Same. His guitar breaks soar against Toombs’ muted Wurlitzer giving the song a very cool sound.
He kicks things up into overdrive with Gov’t Row. It’s a song of hope that’s been dashed and optimism has been replaced with desperation. The quicker pace delivers a sense of urgency and also the feeling of spinning one’s wheels.
Talk about old school, Oxford, MS, starts off with an a cappella choir before adding Knowles’ guitar to the proceedings. This kind of blues should satisfy just about every blues lover – strong lyrics, music that is steeped in the Delta, this is a powerful song.
The title track, Three Miles From Avalon, starts off slowly, deliberately, more folk rock, reflecting some of the music Knowles grew up listening to. It’s a very personal song, the kind where a performer has taken his life and turned into art.
Willie Dixon’s What In The World brings the album to a close with a 12-minute rendition. It starts off with a curious mix of blues and prog rock before sliding into one of the strongest grooves I’ve heard in a long time. Knowles’ guitar blisters its riffs. I can’t wait to hear this one live.
While I was aware of Knowles’ work, I didn’t actually have any to sample or to play on Time For The Blues. I’m glad to be able to correct that situation with Three Miles From Avalon. I can see why he has received so many accolades and can’t wait to catch him live.
If you are interested in catching him live, or picking up some of his music, or even just learning a little more about his life, be sure to check out his website http://davyknowles.com/ for all the details. It’s definitely well worth the trip!