Last month renowned Bay area and Florida artist Damon Fowler released his eighth solo album, Alafia Moon. But what sets this album apart from the rest? It reached no. 1 on the Billboard blues charts.
The effort was recorded in Largo, and was Fowler’s first release on Landslide Records, a label based out of Fernandina Beach. The album has received positive reviews for its mixture and influence of blues, rock, country, gospel, folk, and soul music. Not only did Alafia Moon receive positive reviews and reach the top of the Billboard blues chart, but it also had six songs in the Top 50. The most played of those is album opener “Leave It Alone,” which sets the tone for Fowler’s adventurous and refreshing melodic blend of the blues-rock genre.
Fowler told Creative Loafing Tampa Bay that it was an honor and awesome surprise to be no. 1. He attributed the success of the album to his team as well the other musicians and producers that worked on the record, as well as Landslide Records. That credit is well-deserved, as a prominent list of musicians worked on the album. Those musicians include bassist Chuck Riley, drummer Justin Headley, organ and keyboard player Mike Kach, renowned harmonica player T.C. Carr, singer Betty Fox of the Betty Fox Band, and Josh Nelms, who Fowler told Creative Loafing Tampa Bay “makes the bottle noises and all the hootin’ and hollerin’ on the story [track].” Fowler also expressed a lot of gratitude to his engineer and co-producer George Harris, who Fowler said is one of his favorite engineers.
Fowler wraps his residency at the new Red Star Live in Branson on April 29 with Eddie Wright before touring behind Alafia Moon throughout Florida and in Georgia. On May 1 he plays in Bradenton at Cottonmouth Southern Soul Food then heads to St. Petersburg on May 7 for a gig at 3 Daughters Brewing. Fowler will also be in the Key West, performing at the Green Parrot from May 28 to May 30. Fowler will come to Valdosta, GA on June 11 at Ashley Street Station. On June 12 he will be performing in Atlanta at Blind Willie’s. Then from September 8 through September 10 Fowler will be performing a concerts at Atlantis in Basil, Switzerland.
Fowler started playing music when he was 10 years old, along with his cousin, who was 9 years old at the time. They both started playing with their uncle, who was in a country band that played all over east Tampa in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. But there is one specific event from the very early part of Fowler’s career in music that really sticks out to him.
“When I was 14 [years-old] I entered into this guitar contest called ‘The Best of the Bay.’ It was held at the Kapok Tree Pavilion in Clearwater, back then it was Thoroughbred Music. It excited me so much. At that point in my life I have asthma, I was an only child, and was not very athletic,” Fowler said while laughing. “So, I really found something I felt I was kind of good at, and it inspired me to play harder and learn, and to try and work on it.”
When he was 18 years old, Fowler put out his first album, a self-release titled Riverview Drive that was released in 1999. The album was co-produced by Rick Derringer, who also played rhythm guitar and sand. Fowler met Derringer when Fowler and his band were booked to play in the middle of Derringer’s two sets at a club in Ocala. Derringer was so impressed with their performance that he later invited Fowler on to the stage for the encore.
“After I graduated [high school] I was like, ‘Man, I’m gonna make a CD so I can sell it at my gigs.’ Y’know?” said a smiling Fowler. “And I was talking to Rick about it, and he agreed. So he produced it.”
Throughout the pandemic Fowler also managed to stay busy by giving guitar lessons, doing livestream jams with himself and friends called "Fowler’s Garage," and he started interviewing other musicians for “Gig Stories.”
“[At the beginning] of the lockdown and pandemic I started immediately doing a livestream on the first day. I don’t know why, I just started doing it. And we had a ton of views, man. We had sponsorships, and all kinds of other stuff that really helped get us through. But I also think that we actually made new fans from doing that. . . I’m really glad I did that. I get people coming up all the time saying ‘I used to watch "Fowler’s Garage" and I’m just like ‘Cool man!'” said Fowler.
Fowler has been playing since he was just 10 years old, and is now a ripe 42 years of age. When asked to walk back through his success, accomplishments, and all the experiences from a lifetime in music, he says it all comes down to one thing.
“I give credit to the power of music. Like I said earlier, when I was a kid I wasn’t athletic or anything and [music] was just something that worked for me and it called to me. And it has always treated me good,” he said. “You just respect the music and try to do good by it. It has seemed to always look out for me.”
See a list of Tampa “Safe & Sound” live music venues here.
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