Friday, October 20th found me in Zumbrota, MN to catch Davy Knowles at Crossing at Carnegie. This was not your typical concert venue. Crossings is an art gallery and gift shop with a small stage. Almost every seat is within 20 feet of the stage which makes for an intimate experience. My first experience with Davy Knowles in concert was 10 years ago, and he was opening for Gov’t Mule in a large auditorium with the original members of Back Door Slam. This was truly a unique venue to get to experience Davy up close and personal.
Davy hopped on stage alone with his 1932 National and treated us a rousing cover of the Tony Joe White classic “As The Crow Files,” which he covers on his latestEP 1932 and then proceeded to dip into his catalog with “Saving Myself” from Coming Up For Air and the energetic riff of “I Knew She Was a Liar” from The Outsider. About 15 seconds into “I Knew She Was a Liar” when everyone is clapping along, Davy’s self-deprecating sense of humor had the entire place chuckling. As he explained that while musicians live for audience participation we had to put our hands down for this one as he explained even though he wrote it that it’s too difficult a song for him if we clapped along.
He then put the National down and picked up his Martin and played “Come Home” which he usually does electric but decided to “give it a go” for us. With him covering everything unplugged including the intricate bass line alone it just served to reinforce why he is one of the torchbearers for the next generation of guitar heroes. Things slowed down a little with “Pastures of Plenty,” Amber’s Song” dedicated to his wife of a couple of weeks who he wrote it for. He then told another funny story about sitting on the couch and seeing a video of his debut CD floating by the window of the International Space Station and had us all laughing again. “Tear Down The Walls” was up next for the first plugged in song of the evening when he brought out the rest of his band, Michael Caskey on drums and Adrian Morris on bass to finish off the first set.
After a brief break to interact with the crowd to sell and sign some CDs the complete band returned to the stage for a second set. Davy again picked up his old National and after telling us the story of its acquisition played Leadbelly’s “Out On The Western Plains.” The rest of the second set was full band plugged in. Second set songs included covers from The Waterboy’s “Fisherman’s Blues, Muddy Water’s “Garbage Man” and Willie Dixon’s “What in the World,” which shuffled the band and put Michael on an upright piano that was tucked into the corner of the stage and moved Adrian onto the drum set. The remainder of the set consisted of Davy’s songs including “Oxford, MS,” “Never Going to Be The Same,” “Riverbed” and “Coming Up For Air.” Highlights of the second set though were an outstanding version of “Gotta Leave” from Roll Away, the frenetic pace of “Catch The Moon and Run,” and one of my favorite tunes ‘Heavy On My Mind” to wrap up the night. When Davy tells the origin story of the song it takes on a whole other dimension when you listen to it. I won’t try to tell it here since he tells it when he plays it and it’s best from the source.
Davy blew the audience away standing there alone from the first song and by the end of the night had the small crowd in this cozy little venue on their feet asking for more. Shutting things down explaining that he didn’t want to get the neighbors upset almost worked until one of crowd shouted out that she was the neighbor. My advice it to get out there and see Davy when he comes through your area and if you can’t do that then at least you should go check out his web site www.davyknowles.com where you can find authorized bootleg releases of selected live tracks from his concerts each month. Now I have to wait until Albert Cummings is set to perform at Crossings at Carnegie which is my new favorite small venue simply for it’s relaxed atmosphere and the personal experience you get with the stage. Get out there and support live music.
Review by Kevin O’Rourke