Damon Fowler,
Sugar Shack
(Blind Pig, 2009)

Florida's Damon Fowler has won Creative Loafing's award as the best guitarist in Florida. And the best slide guitarist, lap steel player and dobro player. Clearly, this guy knows his way around a string instrument. He also knows his way around musical styles.

Sugar Shack, his first major label album, contains a handful of original blues numbers and some country, Merle Haggard's "Tonight the Bottle Let Me Down," some southern rock, the Atlanta Rhythm Section's "Third Rate Romance," and some outlaw country, Billy Joe Shaver's "I'm Just a Old Chunk of Coal."

Fowler's voice is serviceable. He sings as though he means what he's saying, and while he's never going to take Florida's best singer award, he's pretty much the best singer of his own material, which is pretty good. His tunes and lyrics use familiar blues ideas but generally with a original twist. Fowler clearly knows what he's doing and he knows how to make an album that rewards listening.

Still, it's as a guitar hero that he's best known and that identification is both the major strength and, ironically, the weakness of the CD. Fowler has learned everything but restraint. Sometimes there's just too much guitar; between his rhythm parts and his solos, both cranked up to 10, Fowler can overwhelm you. Not to dismiss this album -- it's good, and much of the time, approaches excellence -- but next time out, a little more variety in the instrumentation would help.

review by
Michael Scott Cain

21 February 2009

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