Davy Knowles reinvents the blues11/2/2016
It’s closing in on 10 years since Davy Knowles first came to America. Then 19, the blues rock musician came to the states from the Isle of Man with his three piece, Back Door Slam, to play the 2007 SXSW. He’s been living in America since that year, now calling Chicago home.
“It was an entire dream come true,” Knowles recalled of his first visit. “The states were kind of a Mecca to come and play. At the same time, I think all three of us (of Back Door Slam) had this mentality that we were going to treat this musically like we did back home in the pubs. That’s where our music worked best, in small, dingy, packed clubs. We were just going to play.”
On Nov. 4, Knowles will be performing at the Des Moines Social Club’s Kum & Go Theater, performing material from his recently released third solo album, “Three Miles from Avalon.” The album was written and recorded while Knowles and his band were out on the road in support of 2014’s “The Outsider.”
Knowles felt his band was playing very tight after all the time on the road, and since they had already been playing songs from “Three Miles from Avalon” in shows. For instance, the Willie Dixon track that closes the album, “What in the World,” was a song Knowles and his band would often jam on during sets. Knowles first heard the song as performed by Irish guitarist Rory Gallagher, who has been one of the big influences on his career. Knowles included a homage to Gallagher’s fusion of blues and celtic sounds on “Three Miles from Avalon” with the song “What You’re Made Of.”
“I was attracted to the total madness of it. It was so chaotic, so energetic and so aggressive,” Knowles said. “It had a total all-out mentality. I also liked what it stood for. He stood his ground and knew where he wanted to be and what his music wanted to be. Growing up so close to Ireland, it really connected for me.”
Gallagher died when Knowles was only 8 years old, so he only ever got to appreciate his idol’s music in recordings. But over the last decade, Knowles has had the chance to work with musicians like Jeff Beck, Joe Satriani and Peter Frampton, who co-produced Knowles’ 2009 solo debut, “Coming Up for Air.” Not a bad consolation prize when it comes to working with guitar greats.
At 29, Knowles is the next generation for a style of music that sees blues greats pass away with increasing regularity. He sees the blues as a format that can be reinvigorated by anyone with the right touch.
“I think that, because this is a folk music of sorts, the joy of it is you can manipulate it and move it around and hopefully that’s what’s in the back of your mind when you’re working on this stuff,” Knowles said. “It’s important to pay tribute and respect everything that came before. If you don’t do your homework, I don’t know how you can try to move anything on. But if you’re not bringing anything new to the table… I think that’s the important thing. You should always attempt to bring something new while being respectful to what came before.” ♦