Saturday, April 4, 2009

Sugar Shack reviewed by David Stine

Sugar Shack
Damon Fowler
Blind Pig Records
12 tracks

When I read the review of this CD in Blues Blast online, I thought, yeah, uh huh--pretty high praise for a new talent. But I’m a musical skeptic anyway--just ask CBS President-for-life, Mark Thompson. I have to admit ,although Fowler may not be a triple threat--his voice may not be everyone’s cup of Starbucks--he is an excellent guitar player, and most importantly he’s s fine song writer. Sporting a Telecaster on the cover, and with a title like Sugar Shack, the first-time listener might think he’s in for a good time party CD. Not so amigos y amigas. Fowler deals in dark nights of the soul, lost loves, losers who can’t win and even the Sugar Shack sounds like a place to stay away from. if you’re a good Christian boy. Hats off to the band, Fowler, of course, but bassist Chuck Riley delivers quite a workout adding a nice and eerie bottom end to Fowler’s less than happy-go-lucky lyrics. Likewise Scott Key provides drummage that never gets in the way, moves thinks along and shows great versatility. This great little band is helped along by ptoducti0on from Scott Cable. The mix is very good and the CD is not over produced. Now the songs: SS stats of with a mostly acoustic guitar tune “Some Fun.” Here we are introduced to Fowler’s unique singing voice and quirky look at old subjects. Song two, “VFW” takes us out with an older guy and places us in Fowler’s world of bars and clubs where the brokenhearted alight to ease their pain, go dancing or find some “sweets.” “I Hope It‘s Gonna Rain“ is, for me, Fowler‘s most evocative and powerful song on the CD. I hear strains for Peter Green although he’s not mentioned as an influence in the Blind Pig promo sheet. Likewise, “Lonely Blues” which follows sounds a bit like Foghat meets Free. The song “James” also plants the listener in a little bar to overhear stories about James who has never won in his life and has pretty much lost it all. We are now five songs in and Fowler has us living his Southern Gothic experience. Blurbs on Fowler compare his slide playing to Duane Allman and Johnny winter, but I don’t hear much comparison except in CD’s song 6, “Sugar Lee.“ Even then I think it’s a stretch just to compare him to someone familiar. I hear Damon Fowler. At times Fowler will switch to lap steel guitar at which he is equally accomplished. The cover of The Amazing Rhythm Aces “Third Rate Romance” becomes steeled country over a samba beat. Fowler can also cut loose with burning country licks as he does on his cover of Merle Haggard’s “Tonight The Bottle Let Me Down.” This song displays why Fowler’s weapon of choice is a Telecaster. Should the blues fan be put off by this song and the closer, Billy Joe Shaver’s “I’m Just An Old Piece Of Coal”? No. It all fits Damon Fowler’s vision gleaned from his Floridian’s perspective. It’s not pure solid blues, yet the songs portray people and places we have grown to know over the years from blues and country songs. This CD is one that will make you glad you met Damon Fowler and was allowed to peek into his world--whether you are a blues purist or not.

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