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Coming Up For Air by Davy Knowles & Back Door Slam

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Reviewed on 25th August 2009.


Coming Up For Air

By Davy Knowles & Back Door Slam

I like Wikipedia. I don't much like Davy Knowles. Or Back Door Slam either, for that matter, but I shall return to those topics in a moment. Unlike these people, Wikipedia is a burgeoning source of enlightenment. A few minutes in its company have revealed to me that the earliest depiction of a guitar-like instrument is that of a Hittite bard in c. 1300 BC. It has also pointed me in the direction of Ctesibius of Alexandria; the inventor of the earliest organ in the 3rd century BC. It was a complex, water-powered thing, apparently, but an organ nonetheless.

Doubtless these fine fellows thought they were doing sterling work, providing man with the means of harnessing the abstractions of music into tangible public expression. And, as we know, they were. Peering from his lofty peak in eternity, Ctesibius was probably pretty chuffed when JS Bach premiered his Toccata and Fugue in D Minor. Similarly, that Hittite bard and his string-plucking cronies will have been beside themselves during Hendrix' set-closing antics at Woodstock. "See what we kicked off?" they probably quipped to their celestial chums. "The world is truly a better place for our efforts."

But wind the clock on a few years, however, and they might be a little disappointed when this Davy Knowles LP starts being peddled at HMV in downtown Celestial City. "Thing's don't seem to have moved on much," says the Alexandrian to the Hittite. "Your so-called guitars are all over this record, but they don't actually seem to be going anywhere." "Fair point," retorts the picker, "but I'm not sure why that organ of yours is even there. It's just noodling around over most of these tracks." And then Ctesibius spots something, "Ah - that'd explain it. It says here that it's produced by Peter Frampton." But I digress...

What this album is, basically, is a distilled fudge of generic Americana. This is not Americana that takes as its root the raw blues of its native land, however. Instead it is that variety reflected back by the likes of Clapton during his various uninteresting periods. It's loud and expressive at times, even soulful, but ultimately vacuous and fake sounding. That notwithstanding it is musically accomplished, and a cover of George Harrison's 'Hear Me Lord' certainly gives the band a decent chance for an extended workout. So whilst this sort of thing does have a market (in America, maybe, or in your Dad's car) it's not one for the forward thinkers. After all, the Hittites didn't just sit around playing the flute because someone else had done it "quite well" in the past. They moved on and tried something new.



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