Blues rock guitarist, Davy Knowles‘ newest album, Three Miles From Avalon, is set for release on October 14th. Taking from the Arthurian legend, the album title has become Knowles’ personal metaphor for things just out of his grasp. After listening to it, its our conclusion that the world is within his grasp.
Born on the Isle of Man just 29 years ago, Knowles began teaching himself guitar at the age of 11. The first song he learned to play by ear was the Dire Straits hit, “Sultans of Swing.” Pretty damned impressive for a pre-teen who wasn’t even interested in music until he heard that song. From that point, he began rifling through his father’s record collection and was influenced by artists such as Cream, Robert Johnson, and Rory Gallagher.
Now, with 7 albums under his belt, Knowles is returning to his roots and the music that first inspired his passion. Recorded in his adopted hometown of Chicago, Three Miles From Avalon is a gutsy, eight track offering of guitar driven blues rock with a tinge of Celtic influence. When you grow up 50 miles from Ireland and are influenced by Rory Gallagher at a young age, that’s to be expected. What we didn’t expect was the pleasant smack in the face, straight out of the gate.
We recognized a familiar, vintage sound on the first couple of tracks, and for good reason. When going into the studio, Knowles wanted to get back to the basics of recording. “My favorite sounding records are certainly older ones, recorded to tape, with minimal fuss or overdubs,” he said. “I wanted that lovely warm, vintage sound that only tape and glowing tubes can do.”
The first song, “Ain’t Much of Nothin’,” leads off with Knowles’ attention grabbing guitar work. You know from the outset this man means business. Drummer, Michael Caskey starts clacking out the time signature when, seemingly out of nowhere, the soaring organ of Andrew Toombs takes the track to a whole other level. Caskey and bassist, Bryan Doherty kick in hard and fast, creating a heart pounding rhythm section. Knowles doesn’t have a powerhouse voice like many of his predecessors in the genre, but it is clean, soulful, and fits perfectly with his cleverly written lyrics.
Track number two, “What You’re Made Of,” is another high energy rocker, written as a tribute to Gallagher, in his sweeping, guitar driven style. You get the feeling of a live performance, adding more credence to the decision to record the band live, in the studio, with minimal takes.
There are some darker, more menacing songs as well. “Falling Apart,” with its growling, effect laden guitar work, church like organ, and nightmarish lyrics is a bit unsettling. The title track is a brilliantly written tune, with lyrics painting a picture of determination, but, eventually, hopelessness. The true stuff of blues done in a rock ballad style.
Our favorite track is “Oxford, MS.” Its a story song, touching on gambling, violence, murder, and eventual regret, in which the protagonist begs for forgiveness for his sins. The sagacity of this song is in its performance as a true, Mississippi Hill Country gospel hymn. Complete with foot stomping, hand clapping rhythms, and chorus vocals furnished by the Chicago based, female acoustic trio, The Oh Yeahs.
Another gem of a tune comes with the closing track, “What in the World.” The only cover song on the album, Knowles and company pay mad respect to the Willie Dixon classic. Replete with the haunting sound of Toombs’ Hammond B3 and Knowles soulful guitar, this is the music you hear in a dark club, after closing, when the staff is putting up the chairs for the night, but the band doesn’t want to stop.
In the long heritage of UK blues, Mayall, Clapton, Gallagher, Davies, Korner, et al. have left some big shoes to fill. Davy Knowles has now been trying them on for over 10 years, and with Three Miles From Avalon, he’s slipped into them most comfortably. This must have album will hold a special place in your collection. If you ever take it out of the player that is.
Although not available until mid October, advance orders can be placed at the sites linked below.
Three Miles From Avalon
Release Date: October 14th, 2016
Running Time: 39:25