photo by Jamie Younger
The Hangout Festival kicked off Friday afternoon with a scorching set from Davy Knowles & Back Door Slam, a blues-rock trio out of the Isle of Man. A budding guitar god and soon-to-be-member of Mickey Hart’s band Rhythm Devils, Knowles played an hour-long set, which included a song about a train wreck in nearby Mobile.
Knowles, who stopped by the American Songwriter booth after the set, said he learned of the train wreck while watching a cable news program while on tour in the States a few years ago. “It was horrible, and it seemed like a very Americana story.”
As for the Rhythm Devils project, Knowles will assume lead guitar duties for the band, and also sing on some classic Dead tracks. He said he didn’t get into the Dead until recently. “It’s wonderful. I feel like I missed out so it’s great to discover all this wonderful stuff.”
Knowles grew up in the Isle of Man, a small island country in the Irish Sea that sits between Britain and Ireland. The guitarist said he grew up with traditional American blues in the house, with an older sister constantly playing Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf. At age 11, his dad introduced him to Dire Straits. “That’s when I wanted to play guitar,” he said, “and I worked back into the blues. And I don’t do anything else. I’m really boring.”
Knowles’s most recent album, Coming Up For Air, was produced by rock legend Peter Frampton. “The guy is one of the most creative guys I’ve ever been in a room with,” he said. “He’s an unbelievably underrated guitar player. He’s just incredible.”
Knowles also talked about his love of Paul Reed Smith guitars. Currently, Knowles uses amPRS McCarty Smokeburst. He said he got into PRS guitars about a year and a half ago.
“I think they’re the best made guitars on the planet,” he said. “I think that every guitar player could go to the factory and see the blood, sweat and tears and time that goes in to each and every one of those, there would be no other guitars on the planet.”
Because it’s ergonomically sound, Knowles called his PRS the ultimate player’s guitar. “It really matters when you’re playing night after night,” he said.
Davy Knowles (pictured left) with the American Songwriter team.