Damon Fowler: Alafia Moon Review

The promotional materials for Alafia Moon emphasize Fowler’s guitar prowess. And they should. Fowler’s got guitar game, proven by gorgeous slide lines crying out like a person. But he’s also got a soulful voice and is a strong songwriter, meaning you’re not hearing an album of hot licks, but rather a collection of full-blown songs.

Fowler is from Florida, but sings with a subtle New Orleans lilt, making him occasionally sound Dr. John-esque. He understands his range and works within it, focusing on the emotion of his performance, rather than trying to dazzle the listener like we’re American Idol judges. Fowler also mixes things up with his songwriting. Every song is blues rock based, but he explores plenty of styles within that larger one.

The title track is a ballad allowing Fowler to showcase his voice. There’s a bit of sandpaper to his singing, which helps reinforce the tune’s underlying sadness. But backup vocals add a celestial quality to the song, making it a Beauty and the Beast type of situation. And it’s a tie between the two until Fowler’s slide comes in, wave after wave of gorgeous melodies dazzling the listener, beauty triumphing. I tend to listen for the technique beneath the music to help myself understand songs. Is someone playing a lot of notes? A few notes? But with Fowler, I’m unable to focus on anything but melody.

Fowler also knows his way around up-tempo tunes. “Hip to Your Trip” bounces along with a peppy groove, providing plenty of space for Fowler’s voice and more of that addictive slide. When we think of slide, it’s easy to go straight to Duane Allman, who perfected it within straight rock and roll. But Allman played in a huge band that was always jamming hard. He had to battle for every inch of audio space if he wanted anyone to hear him. He also played at an incredible intensity. Fowler, especially on this track, doesn’t have to fight for anything, so the slide lines are Allman-esque, but sound less focused on cutting through the music and more content to lay back and stay with the song.

The album checks in at ten tracks, but one track, “The Umbrella” is a long monologue set to music that doesn’t lend itself to repeated listenings. It sets up the next song, “Kicked His Ass Out,” a funny 50s-inspired novelty tune sung by Betty Fox, Fowler’s vocals rumbling way in the background, that shows off some of Fowler’s impressive rockabilly playing. However, it mostly feels like it’s from a different record. It’s always a good sign when you wish an album had more music, though.

Fowler’s guitar work is the real deal, but he’s more than that. Alafia Moon is full of great songs and vocal performances. He’s made a true album and not backing tracks for showing off his considerable six-string skill. Instead, Alafia Moon shows off Fowler’s many, varied skills.

The Review: 8.5/10

Can’t Miss Tracks

– Hip to Your Trip
– Leave It Alone
– Taxman
– Alafia Moon

The Big Hit

– Alafia Moon

Steven Ovadia

Steven Ovadia interviews blues artists about their songwriting process for Working Mojo.

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