Damon Fowler is a slippery rascal, his swampy slide so devilish that you wonder if his mama had second thoughts when she named him, pulling back at the last minute from Demon to Damon to give the boy a fair shake. But Damon needs no help in the shakin’ department, slithering through a shake, rattle, and rollin’ set of mostly self-penned slide guitar goodies on his new album, Alafia Moon.
The Florida native grew up in Brandon, on the West Coast, about 20 miles south of Tampa. The sprawling Alafia River was a favorite fishing spot that Fowler pays homage to with his crusty, soul-drenched title cut.
Fowler has worked with Cajun swamp soulman Tab Benoit over the years as a co-writer and producer, with Benoit producing Fowler’s 2013 album, Easy Living, Fowler’s recorded stint with Southern Hospitality, consisting of Victor Wainwright, JP Soars, Chuck Riley and Chris Peet. Benoit also put out Fowler’s Whiskey Bayou Sessions in 2018. Some of Benoit’s bayou soul seems to have rubbed off and imbedded itself in Fowler’s vocals.
If the cover art looks familiar, It’s because it was designed by Flournoy Holmes, the artist who created the Allman Brothers’ Eat a Peach and Dr. John’s In the Right Place.
Dr. John’s influence is on display here on “Make the Best of Your Time,” night tripper-style funk transplanted to the Florida swamp, Fowler’s slide like a mud-surfing gator greasing a pathway. It’s a laid back, slinky creeper, like Dr. John fronting Oliver Woods’ former band King Johnson.
“Hip to Your Trip” takes Duane Allman’s sound a bit further down south to Florida with a great big dab of greasy, string-rattling slide undercut with bigfoot swamp funk. Fowler comes by his Allman-esque predilections via a stint with Allman Brothers drummer Butch Trucks’ Freight Train Band, which Trucks always maintained was formed to pick up where the Allman Brothers left off. After Trucks died, Fowler deepened his Allman connection touring with Dickey Betts.
But Fowler shows he’s still very much his own man, stirring up a unique Crescent City/Sunshine State gumbo on “Wanda,” a big-city second-line strut overlaid with downhome observations of a gun-totin’ aging swamp barroom beauty queen for hire.
It’s a swamp tour de force, but this ain’t no random fishing expedition. Fowler’s got his catch up on the bank, proudly displayed for musical anglers to look on and marvel.