Davy Knowles & Back Door Slam
|Every so often a truly explosive, blues-steeped star comes slamming down the pike. The ’60s were filled with acts – from Buddy Guy and Eric Clapton to Jimi Hendrix and Jimmy Page – but each generation has since added to the legacy. Think of Stevie Ray Vaughan, Robert Cray, Susan Tedeschi, Warren Haynes and Kenny Wayne Shepherd.
Now think of Davy Knowles. Think long and hard and toast a bright future. Fronting his band Back Door Slam, the 22-year-old British phenomenon with an encyclopaedic grasp of blues-rock draws on influences from Robert Johnson to
Rory Gallagher and gives it a fresh Celtic feel along the way.
As a songwriter, Knowles puts the muscle back into the blues but also offers a progressive, folk-bluesy slant in the brilliant new album, Coming Up For Air. And it doesn’t hurt that the Grammy-winning Peter Frampton produced it.
Knowles’ trust in himself pays dividends on the new disc. His sensually raw voice is influenced by some of his favourites like Joe Cocker (“the Woodstock-era Cocker,” Davy says), John Mayall and Paul Rodgers (“when he was with Free more than Bad Company”). And his guitar work merges the bar-room blast of Warren Haynes with the lightning-quick filigree of Eric Clapton. And, no, we’re not exaggerating.
Knowles first got bitten by music when, at age 11, his dad put on Dire Straits’ Sultans of Swing. He recalls, “That made me want to play.” And by plundering his dad’s records, along with an older sister’s Blues Collection magazines that came with cassette tapes, Davy was able to hear everyone from Chuck Berry and Muddy Waters onwards. He soon grew to love Cocker (“my mom also grew up in Sheffield and she’d bump into Joe’s mom all the time”) and, especially Rory Gallagher, who blew Knowles away.
After landing the same IOM-based management that guided Grammy-winner Corinne Bailey Rae, Back Door Slam released two EPs and concert DVD on the in-house label, and then emerged internationally in 2007. They first attracted attention at SXSW Festival in Austin (“I heard the spirit of Jimi Hendrix,” wrote critic Patrick MacDonald in the Seattle Times), and then by touring incessantly in the USA. Their debut album Roll Away was released in June 2007 on Blix Street Records, an indie label that has also released CDs by Eva Cassidy. “I like it that I’m not on a blues-only label. That limits you,” says Knowles.