Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Blues Rock Summit In The High Desert With Back Door Slam And The Ryan McGarvey Band

Back Door Slam
The Ryan McGarvey Band
The Santa Fe Brewing Company
Santa Fe, New Mexico
April 5, 2008

Concert Review by Nightwatcher

The future of blues rock guitar was represented in full force as UK bluesers Back Door Slam, riding high on the success of their debut album 'Roll Away', currently # 5 on Billboard's Blues Charts, stormed into the high desert of Santa Fe, New Mexico. Supported by Albuquerque natives The Ryan McGarvey Band, fronted by Ryan McGarvey, recently tapped by Guitar Player Magazine online as one of the top guitarists seen at SXSW 2008, this was a true tour de force of blazing axework courtesy of two of the most exciting young players in the business these days.

First up was The Ryan McGarvey Band, who blazed through a smoking hot set of heavy blues infused with a classic rock sensibility filled with some of the best guitar work available west of the Mississippi. Or east, for that matter. Playing selections from their superb 'Forward In Reverse' debut, by the end of the nearly one hour set it was quite evident once again that McGarvey is certainly one of the cream of the crop of young blues influenced players.

From the opening strains of harp which heralded set starter "Right In All The Wrong Ways", to the rousing encore of ZZ Top's "Brown Sugar", it was yet another affirmation that given the path he's on, big things are certainly headed his way. Supported admirably by bassist Kevin Kraybill and drummer K.C. White, these three work as a well oiled machine - tight and slick, the dependable, solid rhythm put down by the aforementioned two allow McGarvey to soar, weaving in and out of the sound with an incredible tapestry of fiery guitar pyrotechnics. I've been following this band for the past several years, and it's been an honor to see just how far they've developed since, and continue to do so. Only 21, it's staggering to think that as good of a player McGarvey is now, where he'll be in 3, 5..10 years time. Bottom line is, if this band comes to your area, do not hesitate to go out and see them, as you'll leave astonished, mark my words.

The same can be said about Back Door Slam guitarist/vocalist Davy Knowles, who has been rightly garnering attention from some of the most prestigious publications throughout the world. At only 20 years old, he's already been compared to Cream era Clapton and Jimi Hendrix. Called "A guitar god in training" by the L.A. Times, this is one player who has also progressed far beyond his relatively young age.

Possessing a confidence and poise clearly right from the opening song, a stellar cover of "Outside Woman Blues", made popular back in the late 60's by Cream, it was the first of many highlights throughout their 80 minute set. Showcasing tracks from the band's debut, fresh from appearing on the nationally broadcast ABC TV late night show 'Jimmy Kimmel Live!', where they were the recipient of the only standing ovation from the crowd in the show's five year run, this is a trio of musicians who are seemingly on the fast track to massive fame.

While the focus has been on Knowles' playing, it has to be said that as technically accomplished he is on the instrument, special note has to be given to his vocal abilities, which are amazing for someone so young. Reminiscent of soulful vocalists such as the late James Dewar of Robin Trower, full of deep soul and power, it's an instrument on equal footing. Coaxing a variety of classic tones from his Lake Placid Blue Strat while simultaneously summoning up the spirit of the finest blues based rock singers, all the accolades being bestowed upon him are well deserved. Providing rock solid backing, bassist Adam Jones and drummer Ross Doyle combine to form a formidable rhythm section, without whom Knowles wouldn't be able to shine as brightly, and rightly can be considered the band's secret weapon.

Serving up original selections alongside outstanding covers such as CSNY's "Almost Cut My Hair" and finishing up with an encore, featuring Knowles on mandolin, of the late, great Rory Gallagher's classic "Going To My Hometown", by the time of conclusion they had the packed crowd in the palm of their collective hands. I'm sure they could've played on to appreciation long into the night, but as it is, it was quite apparent that once again, they left another crowd off into the night raving about what they'd just seen. As it has been throughout their various treks across the U.S. and abroad. All in all a fantastic time was had by all, as will be anyone who ventures out to see either of these bands live. Do it now, while tickets are relatively inexpensive, as they won't be for long, that's for sure. If you've never seen this band live, and have only heard their debut disc, you're only getting half the story. Get the whole story and be part of history in the making.

Back Door Slam performing "Gotta Leave", live at The Santa Fe Brewing Company, Santa Fe, New Mexico, 04 -05 -2008

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