Davy Knowles & Steve Arvey Back Together in Bradenton
The blues music community is one large family. You meet someone once, and you are acquaintances for life. Such is the case when a young(er) Steve Arvey took his talents to The Isle of Man for a 2001 blues festival.
Though the isle is a mere 30-miles long, the unique festival attracts a wide range of talent across multiple venues and stages. Past performers include Ana Popovic, Watermelon Slim, Guy Davis, Christine Collister, John Hammond, and of course, local heroes Back Door Slam – which featured the emerging talents of Davy Knowles.
Manx Blues Club on the isle has featured Catfish Keith, a pre-Monster Gentleman Jon Cleary, Louisiana Red, and St. Petersburg resident Roy Bookbinder. They take their blues seriously on the Isle of Man.
Steve described his 2001 visit:
“I was booked on the Isle of man blues Festival, 2001. Gibson guitars had me doing acoustic guitar workshops and talking about blues around the world. At the workshop, a 13-year-old young man by the name of Davy came. You can see him sitting there with his guitar.
I recall showing him how to play “Canned Heat” by Tommy Johnson. Davy followed me to my gigs, asking questions. And wanting to learn more about blues music. We stayed in touch on the Internet for a while after that and he became a great guitar player and musician.”
Davy Knowles, 13 years old, at Acoustic Workshop
Hosted by Steve Arvey Isle of Man 2001
During the trip, Steve received a guided tour of Davy’s Shabby Road Studios in the village of Port St Mary. Davy’s father, Tony, took Steve behind the scenes and onto the grounds where Davy grew up. Steve captured the visit and lovely views of Isle of Man’s countryside in this video. Much to Steve’s surprise this plaque hung on a wall in the studio
Fates collided in 2008. Far from the Isle of Man in Steve’s hometown of Chicago. Steve made a guest appearance with Davy and Back Door Slam at Buddy Guy’s Legends. Those who know Steve will not be surprised that he captured part of the appearance in a video.
Now, 13-years later Davy Knowles will reunite with Steve Arvey. Steve will open for Davy at Bradenton’s Cottonmouth Southern Soul Kitchen on July 1, 2023. Come on out and see why reviewer Martine Ehrenclou perfectly described Davy and his latest release, What Happens Next, as
“A revered guitarist, and acclaimed vocalist, songwriter, Chicago-based Davy Knowles released his new album, What Happens Next. The 12-song set features roots guitarist, singer, songwriter Davy Knowles’ take on vintage soul, folk, rock, and blues. With poetic songwriting, soulful, emotive vocals, and brawny guitar riffs, What Happens Next features Knowles’ understated guitar playing with an emphasis on quality and meaningful songwriting. Davy Knowles is truly a multi-faceted artist.”
For a glimpse into the understated genius of Davy Knowles, enjoy the video for “Hell To Pay” from What Happens Next.
There are a few times in my life where I recall exactly where I was when I first heard a song. My career put me into many rental cars and for a time BB King’s Bluesville was free in the car. While driving between Boston and Worcester, MA I was on the Mass Turnpike, near where the supermarket is on the overpass – and there it was:
“I got your letter today, said you’re gone for good”
“I would get you back, if only I could”
My introduction to Davy Knowles began this day through Back Door Slam’s “Come Home” – intro bass riff hooked me, and before the first chorus was over the volume was up significantly. This raucous song from the Isle of Man trio had me hooked.
Fast forward a few years to 2018, and I’m on Joe Bonamassa’s cruise, and somewhere between Miami and Jamaica Davy Knowles reintroduced himself to me. There was Davy and a solo acoustic show that showed the true talents of this young musician.
Playing from his releases The Outsider and Three Miles From Babylon – Davy’s acoustic playing, singing, and his storytelling made for a highly entertaining evening.
Time and distance leave my memory sparse for all the songs – I do recall “Oxford, MS” and “Tear Down The Walls.” But the story I retell often is Davy’s description of life on the Isle of Man. Davy discussed what life was like and transitioned into telling tales of an annual motorcycle race on the island. With superb delivery Davy word painted images that set up perfectly what came next.
Among my favorite singer storytellers is Richard Thompson. And yes, Davy transitioned expertly from the Isle of Man motorcycle rally story into 1952 Vincent Black Lightning. Pure bliss. Luckily, a fellow cruiser captured the performance, and you can find the link below.
Later, Davy brought the Rory Gallagher “tribute band” Band of Friends to the Tampa Bay Blues Fest. Tribute band is a bit unfair – as this ensemble was a labor of love and featured ex-Rory Gallagher band mates Gerry McAvoy and Ted McKenna. The trio deliver a solid set of Rory tunes like Bad Penny, A Million Miles Away, Moonchild, and a neat version of Come Home. Sadly, we lost Ted McKenna shortly after this show.
On a subsequent Bonamassa cruise, I attended a Josh Smith show and noticed Davy paying close attention to Josh and his playing. Without question Josh is among a small group of elite guitar players who operate in the intersection of blues and jazz – including Robben Ford and Matt Schofield. Davy was going to school and his intent focus on what Josh was playing was noticeable. As Davy says on his website:
” It’s your job to be the worst player in the room, and absorb like a sponge”
That is what makes Davy good – his willingness to learn, to stretch, to test musical boundaries. Improvising and imparting his unique style into his and songs from other artists. Best known is his treatment of CSN&Y’s Almost Cut My Hair. – As an aside intent viewers will note that Davy cut his hair between 2018 and 2021.
Tickets to Davy Knowles with Steve Arvey opening are available by contacting Cottonmouth Restaurant at 941-243-3735. The venue is in the vibrant community of Bradenton’s Village of the Arts at 1114 12th St West.
Interview Davy by Martine Ehrenclou
Forbes Magazine Interview
1952 Vincent Black Lighting
Never Make Your Move Too Soon
Almost Cut My Hair