Music Review: Davy Knowles & The Back Door Slam – Coming Up For Air

23 02 2010

Website, My Space

HQ on web

Album Artwork

# Title Length
1. “Coming Up For Air” 4:38
2. “Riverbed” 3:38
3. “Mistakes” 4:15
4. “Hear Me Lord” 6:03
5. “Amber’s Song” 3:12
6. “Tear Down The Walls” 5:01
7. “You Can’t Take This Back” 4:52
8. “Country Girl” 4:28
9. “Keep On Searching” 5:06
10. “Saving Myself” 3:11
11. “Taste Of Danger”  (with Jonatha Brooke) 4:40

Band Members

“Coming Up For Air” Studio Lineup

  • Davy Knowles – electric and acoustic guitars, mandolin, lead and backing vocals
  • Kevin McCormick (from Jackson Browne’s band) – bass
  • Mauricio Fritz Lewak (from Jackson Browne’s band) – drums
  • Benmont Tench –  keyboards
  • Peter Frampton – guitar, bass and backing vocal duties

Studio Albums

With Back Door Slam

  • Roll Away (2007)
  • Back Door Slam – EP (2008)
  • Back Door Slam: Live from Bonnaroo (2008)
  • Coming Up For Air (2009)

Coming Up for Air is a 2009 album by Davy Knowles & Back Door Slam. It is the follow-up to Back Door Slam’s debut album Roll Away. Since Back Door Slam (the name taken from a Robert Cray song) released their 2007 debut record Roll Away a lot has changed.

After a brief break from two years of non-stop touring Davy Knowels replaced Adam Jones and Ross Doyle with Kevin McCormick and Fritz Lewak. Joining them was R&R Hall of Famer Benmont Tench (Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers), who played Hammond organ on several of the album’s 11 tracks. Some “Back Door Slam” fans have responded negatively to the change in line-up, with many saying that the band has lost its magic without these two talented musicians.

Knowles enlisted Peter Frampton to produce the album and veteran soundsmith Bob Clearmountain (Springsteen, The Who, McCartney) stepped to the console to mix the record. Frampton also co-wrote two songs on the album with Knowles.

The distinctive turtle artwork was designed by Manx (Isle of Man) graphic artist Kit Nelson.

Davy Knowles, once a guitar prodigy but now blues-rock star, has known what he wanted to do with his life since the age of 11.

“I was in the car with my dad, and he put on a cassette of Dire Straits’ ‘Sultans of Swing,” explains the 22-year-old guitarist, singer and songwriter. “I just fell in love with the music then and there. That track changed my life, and I realized, ‘I really want to be able to do that.”

Promptly, he took his father’s guitar and learned how to play the song by ear. As Knowles grew older, he was influenced by other artists (like Dire Straits) that he found in his father’s music collection such as Rory Gallagher, Eric Clapton, and Robert Johnson. As a child, Knowles briefly took guitar lessons, but did not prefer the traditional way of learning how to play. After he stopped taking lessons, he quickly took up the guitar and self-taught himself.  Knowles attended Castle Rushen High School in Castletown, where he met future band-mates Ross Doyle, Adam Jones, and Jamie Armstrong.

“Coming Up For Air”

Yeah, the blues-rock feeling of 60’s comes alive in the purest form on this 11 track solo effort from Davy. I first heard Davy Knowles on record he’s done with Gov’t Mule. I remember that I couldn’t believe that the voice and guitar on the record was one of the teenager. I guess Davy’s always got “the blues” in him. Some people are born with it and the Davy is definitely one of them.

In comparison to the “Roll over”, “Coming Up For Air” is much more melodic and clean sounding. Producer Peter Frampton reduced the familiar »Debut Albums« garage feeling. But if you think of Peter Frampton throughout his solo carrier he was never guitar slammer, he rather focused on playing with a lot of soul and feeling. And that’s what comes forward in the sound stage of “Coming Up For Air” a lot of blues soul that always forces you to close your eyes while guitar starts to play.

Furthermore, from the comment of Davy it is clear that this clean sound is something that he always wanted: “Communiqué is my favorite Dire Straits album. I WANT THAT CLEAN TONE. Just to have, mind you – it’s nice to rip…”

On few Album tracks can also be heard influences of Irish traditional music on Davy that melts perfectly with Davies style of guitar playing (Amber’s Song, Country Girl,…).

The rhythm guitar on some songs reminds me on the John Butler Trio with a lot of groove and a funk edge. Although he takes time for guitar solos on each song, he doesn’t extend the pop-hit length of a song. He stays in the written form and leaves the further improvisation for tours.   Although he is not overdoing the guitar like some guitar virtuosos, you can still hear how natural and feeling full his notes sound. It’s just blues at its best shape.

Vocals are the next best thing beside great guitar skills for me. Soulful singing of Davies furrowed blues voice. Love the sound of vocal on softer song’s, for example Mistakes or Amber’s Song. I also like what Davy did with George Harrison song “Hear Me Lord”.

Album Peaks: “Hear Me Lord”, “Tear Down the World”, “Taste of Danger”,…

Nick Anderman of the Village Voice wrote: “Davy Knowles, the lead singer, guitarist and songwriter, is talented like very few bluesmen these days. He shreds like a young Robert Cray and wails like the love of his life was just hit by a truck,” while Shane Harrison of the Atlanta Journal Constitution said: “If this were a more just world, the band’s startlingly talented guitarist, singer and songwriter Davy Knowles would already be a star.”

Despite the thousands of miles he’s already logged on the road – 300+ dates in 18months to support their debut CD in America – Davy’s anxious to get back out there to play. “You should play music because you love doing it,” he says, “If you can hang in for the long haul, you’re doing what most people can’t, and you’re incredibly lucky.”

If you think of the success of some Blues-Rock Musicians in the past, it is clear that blues is “a dying race” in pop culture. It is nice to hear extraordinary talented, young representative that revives the former glory of Blues music and Blues-Rock icons like Beck, Clapton, Young,…

Familiar to: John Bonamassa, Black Keys, John Butler Trio,…




4 responses

24 02 2010

Love it! Coming Up for Air is a fantastic album indeed! I highly advise seeing Davy Knowles LIVE. Been to several shows and you just never want the set to end!

25 02 2010
Jennifer Hill

I became a member of Davy’s Street Team within days of seeing his music videos on YouTube. I was shocked to learn he was only in his early 20s! His vocals and guitar skills sounded like those of a veteran blues-rock musician.

I saw Davy and Back Door Slam twice last year in San Francisco, and he is one impressive young guitarist and songwriter. His devoted to paying homage to the greatest blues and rock players of the 20th century while cultivating his own rich style and developing an impressive repertoire of original songs. His unusually prodigious grasp of numerous stringed instruments is evident on his collaborative and solo albums. I am encouraged that Davy, among other blues players, will keep the rock and Blues traditions alive well into the 21st century.

In addition, Davy’s humility is especially attractive. He is friendly and accessible to his fans through his Facebook page which he updates on a daily basis as well as in the public Street Team forum. Davy never misses an opportunity to share the stage with younger guitarists, and has even offered free guitar clinics in Best Buy stores.

I highly recommend attending his headline shows, or catching his act at a music festival in your area. Bring your friends and children. They’ll be glad you did!

26 02 2010
Terri Jarratt

I saw Davy at the Blues Fest in Fredericton New Brunswick Canada Sept. 2009. All I can say was I stood there with hundreds of others and listened to that guy with our mouth opened and in awe. WOW…………………………what an amazing artist. I am hooiked. He has so much talent that he is going to be around for a very long time ,inflluencing young and old music artists across the board. To top it off, after the show he came over to sign his CD’s or whatever you wanted him to sign. Such a down to earth fan loving guy………………………………………..
He is the man……….

28 02 2010
Stephen McManus

First saw BDS last May at the Chesapeake Bay Blues Festival outside Annapolis and was completely blown away by Davy and the band. Met them briefly when they were selling their CD’s after their set – all 3 of them seemed like nice guys who were having a ball playing. I was fortunate enough to be at the New Year’s Eve show at World Cafe and saw the new band behind Davy. Fantastic show. They must have played for 2.5 hours and Davy’s father joined him on stage for two songs during the encore. It was one of the best shows I have seen and rivaled seeing Dire Straits in a little bar close to Albany in 1978 or 79, just after Sultans of Swing was released. Sometimes you are lucky enough to be in teh right place, at the right time, and “discovering” a band you have never heard of but whom you will follow forever. Davy Knowles and BDS is definitely that kind of band.

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