Davy Knowles was first inspired by the blues, but lately he’s been focusing on returning to his roots; he’s from the Isle of Man, a small island in the Irish Sea. Joined by his rock band Back Door Slam, Knowles first journeyed to America when he was 19.
Now 11 years later, he’s played countless festivals and toured with musicians and bands like Buddy Guy, The Who and Kid Rock, and all Knowles has to say is this: “The longer I live away from the land of my birth, and the older I become, the more I wish I had paid attention to the native music of the Island, to the local musicians playing traditional songs. To my folk music.”
Knowles paid tribute to his Irish heritage in a number of ways, but most prominently through a documentary he filmed in 2014 called “Island Bound.” The film tracks the migration early Celtic and European folk music and how the music was passed from generation to generation. It includes input from the local Manx musicians of the island as well as international artists like Richard Thompson and Martin Simpson.
Since then, Knowles has used his newfound understanding of the music of the Isle of Man to reinterpret his own songs. The music he’s released in the past four years — a series of bootlegs (2018), a six-track EP titled 1932 (2017), the album Three Miles from Avalon (2016) and the album The Outsiders (2015) — combines blues and rock with the folk music of his roots.
Knowles said he likes playing the historian, drawing influence from across the music timeline, whether it’s from the earliest blues field recordings to present day guitarists. Others like him playing historian, too; rock guitarist Joe Satriani described Knowles as a “modern bluesman.”
As for me, I’d describe Knowles as someone you can listen to anywhere – in the car, in the shower, at the park, in the office. He’s got music for every mood.
There’s “Oxford Ms,” my personal favorite, which is great for when you feel like putting your hands together and swaying your hips. If you’re feeling somber and are looking for a slow, focused instrumental vibe, “What in the World” is the song for you. On the days when you need some melodrama to spice things up, I recommend “Ain’t No Grave.” And when all you need is a good, solid, toe-tapper, “Ain’t Much of Nothin'” will never let you down.
While Roots N Blues hosts a range of music, Knowles is one of the few international artists that will grace our stage. We are lucky to have the sounds of the Isle brought to us this fall on the MO Lottery stage. This is his first time at the festival, so be sure to show him some love.