Blues-rocker Davy Knowles, born on the Isle of Man, admits the last two years have been "something of a blur." The 22-year-old guitar wunderkind split from his original Back Door Slam band mates, took up with a new group of musicians, recorded an album with childhood hero Peter Frampton at the helm, and shared the stage with two of his biggest musical inspirations (Jeff Beck and Gov't Mule's Warren Haynes).
But perhaps the most exhilarating moment came when someone forwarded Knowles a video of some Isle of Man schoolchildren singing his song "Roll Away" to Bee Gees Barry and Robin Gibb, who visited their birthplace last summer.
"I broke down when I saw that," Knowles said. "It was such an emotional thing for me, such an honor. 'Roll Away' is about being proud to be from the Isle of Man, but realizing it's a very tiny place and needing to go out and see more of the world. Which is what I've done."
Still, the ties run deep for the now-Chicago-based musician, so when Knowles returned home this year to perform, he invited the same 30-some schoolchildren to accompany him onstage for "Roll Away."
"There have been some ups and downs these past couple of years, but far more ups than I could have ever imagined," the ever-humble Knowles said by phone last week. "The opportunities that have come my way have just been amazing."
That's not surprising to anyone who has heard this young guitar god with the smoke-and-whiskey voice perform. Whether belting out Rory Gallagher's "Going to My Hometown" on mandolin or going into a blues-guitar frenzy on Blind Joe Reynolds'/Cream's "Outside Woman Blues," Knowles makes it look (and sound) effortless, earning a name for himself as Britain's most ferocious roots guitarist since the heyday of the Clapton-era Yardbirds.
Backed by drummer Steven Barci, bassist Paul "PK" Kemmish, and keyboardist Ty Bailie for his New Year's Eve gig in Philly, Knowles plans to surprise his father, Tony, that night by asking him to come up onstage for a tune or two: "He'll be terrified, but it will be great."