Blues star Davy Knowles performs Saturday
Situated between Ireland and England, the mysterious Isle of Man is a small Celtic country with its own language. “It’s a lovely spot in the Irish Sea,” said blues guitarist Davy Knowles. “I was born and raised there.” Knowles will headline the Ark Valley music scene when he takes the stage at 8:30 p.m. Saturday, March 31, at The Lariat in Buena Vista.
Growing up, “there was always music happening in the house. My dad is a huge music fan … and my sister was always a good source for new music.” Knowles includes classic rock legends like the Yardbirds, Cream, John Mayall and Rory Gallagher among the musical influences his father introduced to him. “Mark Knopfler really started it off for me” with “Sultans of Swing” on Dire Straits’ debut album, released in 1978.
As Knowles followed his passion for music, he soon discovered the blues roots of classic rock ’n’ roll – from Albert King and Muddy Waters on back to Leadbelly and Robert Johnson. Immigrating to the U.S. at the age of 19, Knowles settled in Chicago, probably the most important city in the history of electric blues. Since then, he has released five albums, not counting his Official Bootleg series featuring monthly releases of live recordings for download at DavyKnowles.com.
Knowles’ two most recent studio releases highlight opposite ends of the blues spectrum. Three Miles from Avalon is an all-electric blues-rock album, and 1932 is all acoustic. Three Miles From Avalon entered the Billboard Blues chart at number 5, sharing the top 10 that week with Joe Bonamassa, Eric Clapton, Bonnie Raitt, Tedeschi Trucks Band and Keb Mo’.
More recently, Knowles released 1932, a collection of songs performed exclusively on his vintage 1932 National guitar. “I’ve always found my old National guitar to be such an inspiring instrument. It’s always given that instant mojo to every track I’ve used it on.”
In his late 20s, Knowles has already worked with an impressive list of renowned musicians. “I’ve been really lucky,” he said. “My second album was produced by Peter Frampton, which was a really wonderful experience.” In 2010 Knowles performed with Grateful Dead drummers Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzman in a band called the Rhythm Devils, which evolved from Hart and Kreutzman’s extended percussion improvisations during Grateful Dead shows. The Rhythm Devils’ 2010 tour featured Knowles and Keller Williams on guitar. “I was really kind of out of my comfort zone,” said Knowles, “but it was amazing,” especially given the extensive catalogue of music in the Devils’ repertoire. He has also performed with Jeff Beck, Buddy Guy, The Who, George Thorogood, Warren Haynes, Joe Satriani, Joe Bonamassa and Lynyrd Skynyrd. “All of those guys were great. They’ve been very generous.”
Knowles’ Saturday performance at The Lariat will be his first in Buena Vista, but he has played Steamboat Springs, Breckenridge, Aspen and Red Rocks. “I’m always cracking to play Colorado.” Following his current tour, Knowles will hook up with bandmates of one of his most important influences, Rory Gallagher, for an April tour. Later this year, blues fans will want to look for a couple of new releases from Knowles, who said he has “some time carved out” for those projects.
“Blues is the music I first fell in love with, and I have always connected deeply with it,” said Knowles. “I enjoy playing the historian and am fascinated by all facets of the genre, from the earliest field recordings to the more recent guitar gods that electrified and supercharged this music. It’s from all along this timeline that I like to draw influence.”