The bluesman goes back to basics with his coalescing live band to capture a raw, late-’60s vintage vibe on his third solo LP.
Davy Knowles was barely 20 in 2007 when his former band Back Door Slam’s debut album, Roll Away, hit the streets and Knowles hit the road—which proved an eye-opening experience for a youngster from the sheltered environs of the Isle of Man. Though he's traveled many miles since, his sound still harkens back to his homeland on his third studio album, Three Miles from Avalon, premiered here exclusively by Premier Guitar.
The eight-song set summons the spirit of late-’60s, powerhouse British blues—the kind played by Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac and the legendary Irish firebrand Rory Gallagher—and explores the genre’s enduring themes, like blackmail, gambling, and regret.
Guitar beacon Joe Satriani called 2009 tourmate Knowles his “favorite modern bluesman.” That’s not a light compliment, and Knowles hasn’t stopped building upon his chops. Following his sophomore solo album, 2014’s The Outsider, came an ambitious full-length documentary Island Bound, which follows the migration of indigenous music from Celtic and European cultures, and explores the influence of roots music on contemporary popular music.
Knowles chose his current hometown of Chicago, the capital of electric blues, to record his new collection, which he co-produced with engineer Anthony Gravino. After extensive touring, Knowles’ says his band is hitting a stride. “The band and myself have racked up a lot of playing time together, and we have really started to gel,” he says. “I wanted to capture that ‘live’ feel in the studio.”
A self-professed rabid vinyl collector, Knowles set out with a specific sound in mind. “My favorite sounding records are certainly older ones, recorded to tape, with minimal fuss or overdubs,” the bluesman continues. “I wanted that lovely warm, vintage sound that only tape and glowing tubes can do.”
Knowles’ current go-to guitar is a 1966 Fender Telecaster, and while the band went for a stripped vibe, Knowles found inspiration in a pedal by Foxrox Electronics, called the Octron. The octave-up and octave-down pedal became the catalyst that helped him finish the album’s third track, “Falling Apart,” which features a dark, driving, ominous riff that recalls Jimmy Page’s haunting tone on “Dazed and Confused.”
Avalon features a few tips of the hat to Knowles’ heroes, including a reworking of Willie Dixon’s “What in the World,” while the track “What You’re Made Of,” pays homage to the late Gallagher. “Rory has been a huge influence for me—his energy and drive were so mesmerizing,” says Knowles. “I wanted to get back to that high-energy, big guitar riff style of writing.”