Damon Fowler’s career was hardly in need of enlivening. This is a guy who, over the past few years, has not only been unleashing his own rootsy blues-rock outings but has also co-founded the good-time dixie-groove Southern Hospitality band. Along the way, Fowler’s been favorably compared to Johnny Winter, then picked up a slide and drawn parallels with Duane Allman. That’s to say nothing of his steel and dobro work. But, as Fowler’s forthcoming new solo album Sounds of Home so handily attests, there’s are still plenty of sideroads, tributaries and byways to explore.
For one thing, who would have guessed how easily he’d slip into Elvis Costello’s “Alison,” giving it a new patina of gritty emotion? That Fowler dove so giddily into Winters’ “TV Mama,” well, that’s to be expected. But the gospel profundity of “I Shall Not Be Moved”? Fowler is clearly in the mood to push himself into new corners of his craft, and into new depths of emotion — and he picked just the right collaborator to do that in Tab Benoit.
Ultimately, there must have been some comfort in Fowler’s surroundings, as Benoit ensconced the Florida native inside a rural Louisiana home studio. At the same time, though, having a new voice in the room clearly sent Fowler in search of other vistas — and he found them on Sounds of Home, due January 21, 2014 from Blind Pig Records.
For every time Fowler sits back on a Southern front-porch swing, picking his way through “Where I Belong,” he pushes himself toward less-traveled paths like country (the perfectly titled “Old Fools, Bar Stools and Me”). And Fowler simply has never played better, showing off a notable control while continually stirring in new elements of Americana, R&B, and grease-popping soul. Even scalding rockers like “Thought I Had It All,” as with Fowler’s finely attenuated earlier releases, find their true portent without ever being showy.