Damon Fowler

Devil Got His Way

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Young roots guitarist Fowler follows his Blind Pig debut with this sophomore release two years later that does everything a second release should: it focuses his vision while feeling more comfortable and looser than his last disc. Fowler's creative lap steel work is what sets him apart from the rest of the guitar-slinging pack and it's in fine display here. These dozen tracks show Fowler settling into a swampy, country-tinged, blues/rock groove that's impressively unforced. His low-key vocals are assured yet more vulnerable and fresh-faced than most hotshot guitarists. They help make these songs shift into an easygoing vibe that's inviting even when the lyrics fall into the cliché-ridden sexual double-entendres of "Fruit Stand Lady." He's less successful with a by-the-numbers Georgia Satellites-styled rocker "Once in a While" especially when his boyish voice tells the tale of "good girls who have to let loose once in a while." Thankfully, his twangy solo helps move the tune into more distinctive territory. Fowler unearths a nifty cover with Chuck Prophet's touching ballad "After the Rain," a real find that he interprets beautifully and with real soul. He doesn't add much to Leon Russell's jaunty "Tight Rope" (although the mandolin is a nice touch) but it's a cool song to revive after being somewhat forgotten over the decades. Elsewhere, originals such as "28 Degrees" with its creative use of cowbell, wade into the swamp and the story song of "American Dream," about the making and breaking of a rock star put to a modified reggae beat that shows that Fowler can bring the blues to a variety of genres. The closing drinking song "Happy Hour" might make a rousing singalong in the bars where any tune about liquor gets attention, but it's out of place here. Yet when Fowler hits his stride on the propulsive title track driven by a slow funk grind and nasty slide work, and the crawling "Cypress in the Pines," he zeros in on a style that's rhythmic and memorable, and shows he's just starting to nail his groove.

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