Davy Knowles and Back Door Slam

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Davy Knowles and Back Door Slam tour on Frampton-produced album

:: Davy Knowles and Back Door Slam ::
:: Mile High Music Festival ::
:: Dick’s Sporting Goods Park ::
:: July 18 ::

By Timothy Dwenger

Twenty-two-year-old guitar prodigy Davy Knowles has been turning heads on both sides of the pond for several years now. Hailing from the tiny Isle of Man in the U.K., Knowles’ incendiary guitar style has earned comparisons to legends ranging from Stevie Ray Vaughn to Jimi Hendrix. Propelled by a fierce version of the classic “Outside Woman Blues,” made famous by Cream in the late ’60s, his first album, Roll Away, exploded onto the blues scene in 2007 and put his name on the radar of critics and fans alike.

In addition to serious guitar chops, Knowles possesses an improbably mature and weathered voice for such a young man. This only adds to his credibility in the music world, as he howls and barks the blues like he has lived them for decades upon decades. His new release, Coming Up for Air, picks up where Roll Away left off, throwing the listener straight into the fray with the powerful one-two punch of the title track followed by the arena-ready, train wreck anthem, “Riverbed.”

In January, Knowles and former bandmates Ross Doyle and Adam Jones decided to go their separate ways and pursue individual musical interests. Though the band claimed in a joint statement on their website that the “decision was the hardest of our lives,” Knowles elaborated a bit in an interview with The Marquee as he set out on a ten-and-a-half-hour drive from Nashville, Tenn. to Wilmington, N.C. “As a musician, it should be your mission to keep growing, keep moving and spread yourself out as much as you can stylistically; to try and learn and grow as much as you can,” he said. “It just got to the point with Adam and Ross where none of us were really feeding off each other anymore and there was nothing more to be learned from the situation. We were just going through what we had been doing for the past two years and it wasn’t changing, getting better, or getting worse. I have a phobia of staying still like that. It was just time to play with different people and to learn again.”

Shortly after the split, Knowles had the good fortune of being introduced to one of his heroes, Peter Frampton. “We have a mutual friend in Nashville and he mentioned to me that Peter was out and about doing co-writes and asked if I would be interested. I quickly said, ‘Well, yeah!’ and we kind of hit it off. We wrote a few songs together and I asked him if he would like to produce them for me. As we were talking through how we wanted those songs to sound, I was, like, ‘Well, that’s how I want my whole album to sound.’ So, he ended up doing the whole lot,” Knowles said.

While Knowles is now out on the road with a new rhythm section consisting of Seattleites PK on bass and Steven Barci on drums, neither are featured on Coming Up for Air. “I was sitting in a coffee shop one morning and Peter gave me a ring and said, ‘Davy, I think I’ve found our studio band.’” To his amazement, the band in question was Jackson Browne’s rhythm section, Fritz Lewak (drums) and Kevin McCormick (bass), with Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers’ Benmont Tench on keyboards — yet another testament to the raw talent Knowles possesses and the respect he’s already commanding with those “in-the-know.”

With Frampton behind the board and a seasoned band behind him in the studio, Knowles was in a position to either excel beyond his wildest dreams or crack under the pressure of being the “kid” in the room with a world of expectations piled on his shoulders. “I was so nervous at first ’cause I am such a big fan of his [Frampton] and I didn’t know what to expect. I just knew that I had to be on top of my game,” said Knowles. “His whole approach and the way he works is so relaxed and yet focused. I think that is so important. He was the perfect producer. He makes you feel instantly comfortable; there is no tension there, no nothing.  He has an amazing knack for that. It was just a dream come true. I have been listening to his music forever and to sit and write and play guitar and hang out with one of my heroes was quite an honor. It really doesn’t get any better than that.”

With a relaxed vibe saturating the studio, Knowles led the band through new songs, road tested gems and a moving cover of George Harrison’s “Hear Me Lord.” By his own account, everything they tried seemed to blossom and improve in the presence of so much talent. The result is a diverse album that showcases strong songwriting and everything from searing blues licks to delicate delta blues style acoustic playing.

Though the album is a very solid piece of work, it is damn near impossible to catch lighting in a bottle and the only way to truly experience what Knowles is capable of is to see him live. Pete Townshend and The Who have invited him to share their stage, as has Jeff Beck, Buddy Guy and modern jam guitar titan, Warren Haynes. The kid keeps good company and if there is any justice in the world, his name will soon be mentioned in the same breath as any one of these legends.

:: Davy Knowles and Back Door Slam ::
:: Mile High Music Festival ::
:: Dick’s Sporting Goods Park ::
:: July 18 ::

Recommended if you Like:
• Stevie Ray Vaughn
• Cream
• Kenny Wayne Sheppard

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