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Youth isn't always wasted on the young: a review of Davy Knowles and Back Door Slam

The latest wave of a new sound in blues recently hit Atlanta in the form of Davy Knowles and Back Door Slam. A young man from the Isle of Man who has played guitar since a very young age, Davy caught the attention of Peter Frampton, and, as the cliché goes, the rest is history. Frampton produced Davy’s latest album “Coming Up For Air” and what a piece of work it is. Categorized as blues, Davy’s music spans a much wider range than merely blues, which is fairly typical for younger blues artists these days. These youngsters are anything put cookie cutter images of their heroes.

Davy Knowles
Laura Kudritzki, Muse Photography

Davy first began to garner attention when he toured with Jeff Beck as his solo acoustic opener. How does one come from nowhere into such an illustrious, sought-after slot? When you’re Davy Knowles, that’s a no-brainer. Davy began playing music at a very early age, making him a bona fide “phenom.” His affable, humble personality doesn’t hurt either. Davy became fascinated early by music, and when he was 16, Davy’s father took him to see Robert Cray. Davy “ . . . [L]oved it and thought, ‘I want to be doing this. Why aren’t I on stage?’ ’’. In fact, Davy’s band name comes directly from Robert Cray’s “Back Door Slam.” Between band mates at the time of recording, Peter Frampton brought in two members of Jackson Browne’s band, Fritz Lewak on drums and Kevin McCormick on bass, and Benmont Tench of Tom Petty & the Heartbreaks on keys. Davy now tours with PK on bass and Steven Barci on drums, who make up the current members of Back Door Slam. “Coming Up For Air” is a fine collection of music, but to really experience Davy Knowles, he must be seen live.

During his show at the Loft (Atlanta) Davy showed what he is all about. Having experienced Davy’s vocals unplugged, hearing them with the full band showed just how powerful he is as a vocalist. Finding the right adjectives to describe Davy’s vocal talents is difficult. He has a “raspy” quality to a voice that is both powerful and soothing. His vocal modulations and pitch bending make him more than just a good vocalist—they allow him to tell a story with his voice and music. His emotions are clear behind the words, emotions that belie the youth of the singer. Davy’s skill with guitar is matched by few, and when one considers his age (22), that skill may be unmatched period. At times, Davy makes the guitar sound like another instrument all together. During “Tear Down These Walls,” he performed a short guitar solo. His fingers, moving deftly along the frets, gave out the sound of a horn or flute. Though Davy certainly has no need to cover others’s music, he gave quite an impressive rendition of Bob Marley’s “I Shot The Sheriff.” Though this song is likely most known from the #1 Billboard-ranking cover by Eric Clapton, Davy just gave the song additional kudos with his smooth vocal stylings, accompanied by his wailing guitar, giving the song a general “feel-good” vibe.

One of the most interesting aspects of Davy Knowles and Back Door Slam’s Atlanta show was found in the attendees. From the 9 and 11 year-olds whose dad claims Davy “weaned them off the Jonas Brothers” to the more “mature” adults, the crowd reflected just what type of following Davy Knowles and Back Door Slam have created in a relatively short period of time. The Loft is a great, open room that can hold many; however, some of Davy’s older fans seemed disappointed that the venue has no seating. None of the fans, however, were disappointed in Davy Knowles and Back Door Slam. These guys are always tight and put on a show to remember. At 22 years old, Davy has a very long, successful career ahead of him, and his soul seems full of the music he loves to play. Keep a lookout for this one, and when he returns to Atlanta, do not miss the opportunity to be entertained, seduced, and brought into the world of Davy Knowles and Back Door Slam.


  • Jim Brieske 5 years ago

    Great review - show was fanastic. Davy is the real deal and one must see him live.

  • Robbie Brieske 5 years ago

    Was at this show and brought my 9 and 11 year old as mentioned in the article. What a night! Thanks Shirley for writing about some of Davy's youngest fans in attendance. School night? They were definitely schooled that evening. My youngest had the best seat in the house leaning on Davy's speaker front and center. Unforgettable...

  • Abby 5 years ago

    Great review! I might add that Davy had a whole helluva lotta fans well before he opened for Jeff Beck though! :) Anyone who had the chance to see his earlier tours understood the potential right away! It has been a great deal of fun to watch the progress he has made and see the increasing recognition he has gained. Would have loved to see this show!