Album review: Damon Fowler, Sugar Shack (2009)

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, DEC. 11, 2009

By Steve Newton

Damn those blasted CDs scattered all over my desk! When I was searching the mess last week for potential entries to my Top 10 list of 2009 I somehow managed to overlook this stunning release by singer, songwriter, and guitarist extraordinaire Damon Fowler. Whether tackling swampy southern rock, rootsy blues, or twangy country, the Florida native hits the mark every time with his expressive vocals and exceedingly tasty six-string action.

In the sterling company of bassist Chuck Riley and drummer Scott Key, Fowler’s inspired chops light up original tunes like the freewheeling acoustic opener “Some Fun” and the invigorating boogie number “VFW”. And when he pulls out the slide for the slinky title track his bottleneck licks are enough to send a shiver up the spine of Johnny Winter.

Fowler’s choice of covers is exceptional, including the Amazing Rhythm Aces’ 1975 hit “Third Rate Romance” and a honky-tonkin’ take on Billy Joe Shaver’s “I’m Just an Old Chunk of Coal (But I’m Gonna Be a Diamond Some Day)”. Particularly impressive is the rollicking version of Merle Haggard’s “Tonight the Bottle Let Me Down”, which boasts what is undoubtedly the coolest 26-second guitar solo of the year.

Look out Brian Setzer.

The 30-year-old Fowler is lucky to be around today. Four years ago he survived a highway crash in which his van was rammed from behind by a pickup, causing it to flip over on the driver’s side, his head and shoulder skidding on the pavement. He wasn’t able to play music for nearly a year, but from the sounds of Sugar Shack he’s making up for lost time.

If you’re a fan of guitar-based roots music you owe it to yourself to sample his sparkling talent.

 

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