Hot on the heels of the 2015 album release The Outsider, the full-length documentary Island Bound, and an extensive tour schedule, Isle of Man-born Davy Knowles announces his new album Three Miles From Avalon. This collection of new songs sees Davy returning to his roots, and the sounds that first ignited his passion for music.
Recorded exclusively in his adopted hometown of Chicago, the capital of electric blues provided Knowles with a landscape steeped in legend, inspiring him to creatively explore the genre of music he’s always loved – energetic, guitar driven blues-rock.
Knowles began the recording process for Three Miles From Avalon with a fresh approach, one that has resulted in a dynamic, gutsy sound: “I wanted to go back to the basics. The band and myself have racked up a lot of playing time together, and we have really started to gel. I wanted to capture that ‘live’ feel in the studio
This led naturally to a back-to-basics approach, and a search for authenticity when it came to recording the new material: “My favourite sounding records are certainly older ones, recorded to tape, with minimal fuss or overdubs. I wanted that lovely warm, vintage sound that only tape and glowing tubes can do.”
A raw, vintage sound is evident in the album’s opening two tracks, the hard-driving Ain’t Much Of Nothing, and a long-time live favourite, What You’re Made Of, a homage to one of Davy’s musical heroes: “Rory Gallagher has been a huge influence for me, his energy and drive was so mesmerising. I wanted to get back to that high energy, big guitar riff style of writing.”
Falling Apart, the album’s third track, adds dark drama to the record’s driving pace with its smoky verses and heavy, snarling, blues riff. “I’ve had this song kicking around for a long time, but it wasn’t until I had found this guitar pedal called ‘The Octron’ (one of only two pedals used by Knowles on the entire album) that the song and the riff really came to life, it’s got this wonderful menacing sound.”
Weaving a moment of pathos into the tracklist is Oxford MS – a fictional account of shady dealing and violence. Storytelling has always been a vital ingredient in Knowles’ work: “Songs with characters and stories have always grabbed me, and I wanted to write one in the blues and gospel vein, it’s a story of blackmail, gambling and regret, though certainly not an autobiographical one!”
Yet it’s the title track, Three Miles From Avalon, which brings to the fore very personal aspects to a tale. “The song is really all about being slightly further away than where you want to be, and the frustration that comes with that. Avalon is this Arthurian legend, the Island that could never be found. It became my metaphor for things just out of my grasp.”
The song also reveals the musical influences close to Davy’s heart, showcasing his love of blues and classic rock with affection
The album closes on a hat tip to one of the all-time greats, Willie Dixon, with a re-working of his blues classic What In The World. Performed with a live, ‘after hours’ feel, the track showcases Knowles’ confident and distinctive guitar playing, but also a powerful solo on the Hammond B3 by Andrew Toombs – demonstrating that Knowles and his tight-knit band all possess not only stunning technical ability, but soul too.
ADIOS is Cory Branan's death record. Not the cheeriest of openings, but like all of Branan's mercurial work, it's probably not what you think. As funny and defiant as it is touching and sad, this self-dubbed «loser's survival kit» doesn't spare its subjects or the listener.
Not even Branan's deceased father is let off the hook. In the tender homage «The Vow» he drolly cites his father's favorite banality «that's what you get for thinking».
Not all the death on ADIOS is literal mortality. «Imogene» is sung from the wreckage of a love that once «poked fun at the pain, stoked the sun in the rain» but ends with the urgent call to â€œact on the embers, ash won't remember the way back to fire.â€�
The trademark lyrical agility is mirrored sonically. Never a genre loyalist, ADIOS finds Branan (much like his musically restless heroes Elvis Costello and Tom Waits) coloring outside the lines in sometimes startling shades of fuzz and twang. While unafraid to play it arrow-straight when called for (â€œThe Vow,â€� â€œEquinox,â€� â€œDonâ€™t Goâ€�), ADIOS veers wildly from the Buddy Holly-esque rave up â€œI Only Knowâ€� (sung with punk notables Laura Jane Grace and Dave Hause), through the swampy â€œWalls, MSâ€� to the Costello-like new wave of â€œVisiting Hours.â€�
The blistering punk of â€œAnother Nightmare in Americaâ€� bops along daring listeners to â€œLook away, look away, move along, nothing to see hereâ€� (the song is written from the point of view of a racist killer cop). And as the mourning singer on â€œCold Blue Moonlightâ€� shifts from paralysis to panic, the songâ€™s jazzy drone shifts to an almost Sabbath fury. The tonal shifts are always deliberate and not just simple genre hopping; while the turns can be jarring you can trust Branan to take you somewhere unexpected.
The 14-song album was self-produced and recorded in the spring of 2016 at Tweed Studios in Oxford, MS with a tight three piece: Branan on lead vocals and guitar (both electric and acoustic); Robbie Crowell (formerly of Deer Tick) on drums and percussion, keys, and horns; and James â€œHaggsâ€� Haggerty on bass. Additionally, Amanda Shires contributes on fiddle and vocals, and Laura Jane Grace of Against Me! and Dave Hause provide guest vocals.
Cory Branan has four previous full-length releases: The Hell You Say (2002, Madjack Records), 12 Songs (2006, Madjack), Mutt (2012, Bloodshot Records), and The No-Hit Wonder (2014, Bloodshot). His music has received critical praise from the likes of Rolling Stone and Rolling Stone Country, NPR All Things Considered, Noisey, Wall Street Journal, Paste Magazine, Oxford American, Consequence of Sound, Southern Living, and many others.