Davy Knowles

Thursday, April 27, 2023
Doors: 6:30pm | Show: 8pm
$25 to $32

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On his aptly-titled Mascot Records’ debut, What Happens Next, roots singer-songwriter and guitarist Davy Knowles boldly steps forward with timeless and cohesive songwriting; sleek modern production; and a lyrical, play-for-the-song guitar approach informed from soul, folk, rock, and blues. The 12-song album is just as influenced by The Black Keys, Fantastic Negrito, Gary Clark Jr., as it is Muddy Waters, Junior Kimbrough, and R.L. Burnside. It is a cohesive body of work rather than a collection of disparate songs. “I’ve always loved songs. When it came time to record this album, it was all about supporting the songs as opposed to ‘how quickly I can get to the guitar solo’,” the Isle of Man-born, Chicago, Illinois-based artist says laughing. “Not that there’s anything wrong with that—I’ve been there, done that!” He continues: “I’m not a purist, and the way for roots music to stay relevant is to adapt and progress. The ‘field hollers’ Alan Lomax recorded are worlds apart from Muddy Waters’ music, but they come from the same place.” Knowles has earned plum endorsements from D’Addario strings, PRS guitars, Bludotone amps, and Celestion speakers. In 2010, he became the first musician in history to play live directly to the International Space Station from Mission Control in Houston. In addition, he’s held his own sharing the stage with such heavyweight artists as The Who, Jeff Beck, Gov’t Mule, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Kid Rock, Joe Bonamassa, Sonny Landreth, Peter Frampton, Joe Satriani, and the Sammy Hagar-fronted supergroup “Chickenfoot,” among many others. On What Happens Next, Knowles’s poetic songwriting, and his soulfully emotive singing steal the show. The 12-song body of work offers forth a peaks-and-valleys album experience winding through brawny riffs, jazzy blues balladry, and vintage soul before concluding with one of Knowles’s most personal songs released to date. Throughout it all, his guitar playing is brilliantly understated, his rhythm work is deft and dynamic—beefy on the rockers, and subtly supportive on the slower tunes—and his leads are economical but feature juicy blues bends and thick as molasses lead guitar tones. The album bursts open with, “Light Of The Moon,” a swaggering riff-rocker replete with vibey 1960s organ flourishes, hooky minor-tinged refrains, and impassioned soul-drenched vocals. Here, Davy’s lead breaks drip sustain, vibrato, and sublime bluesy melodicism. Select album standouts also include the cinematic “Devil and the Deep Blue Sea,” the burly soul-rocker, “Wake Me Up When The Nightmare’s Over,” and achingly beautiful folk ballad, “If I Ever Meet My Maker.” “Devil and the Deep Blue Sea” is lushly orchestrated with crystalline piano, tremolo-dipped guitars, beautifully weary vocals, and teardrop slide guitar work. Knowles’s words here are haunting, he sings: Like a prisoner on the run, my past is catching up to me/Like a prisoner on the run, my past is catching up to me/I’ve been forced to make a bargain between the devil and the deep blue sea. Knowles confesses: “I’m incredibly grateful I’ve been able to make a living playing bluesy guitar. Yet, sometimes I struggle with feeling that maybe I’ve boxed myself into a corner, and that’s what this song is about.” “Wake Me Up When The Nightmare’s Over” is a darkly-themed rocker recalling Mad Dogs and Englishmen-era Joe Cocker with Knowles turning in a stunner of a whiskey-and-honey vocal performance. The album concludes with the lonesome acoustic ballad, “If I Ever Meet My Maker,” a personal song written about Knowles’s father from the vantage point of being a father himself. “I have my own family now that he will never meet, and I constantly want to ask him for advice. It’s really hard,” Knowles shares. What Happens Next was produced by award-winning producer, songwriter, and engineer, Eric Corne (John Mayall, Joe Walsh, Joe Bonamassa). It is something of a departure from Knowles’s fired-up and reverent take on blues and Americana. He first burst onto the scene at the age of 20 in 2007 with his band Back Door Slam, garnering rave reviews, making national US television appearances (Jimmy Kimmel Live, Good Morning America), earning extensive triple-A radio airplay, and achieving two Top 5 Billboard Blues charting albums. Since then he has been solo, and he independently released two more studio albums, 2014’s The Outsider and 2016’s Three Miles From Avalon, which also hit the Top 5 on the Billboard Blues chart. In 2017, he issued the EP, 1932, which showcased his unplugged talents with stunning performances on a 1932 National acoustic guitar. The following year, Knowles issued a compilation of bootleg performances titled, Best of the Bootlegs 2017. Recently, he revisited and re-released versions of the beloved Back Door Slam albums, Coming Up For Air and Roll Away Despite the songs on What Happens Next featuring concise lead guitar playing, fans of Knowles’s fleet-fingered lead style fear not for the blues-rock fire still burns inside him. Knowles says: “This album taught me about restraint in terms of guitar playing. I had to reign it in to let the songs breathe, but I am looking forward to reimagining them and stretching out when we play live.”