June 12, 2008
By David Huff
Kevin Fowler - Country Fever 2008 - Jun. 12-15
Taking His Audience on a Sonic Journey
From pubs to arenas, from dance halls to county fairs, the name Kevin Fowler has come to mean a full house and cheering crowds. This past year, the Austin-based musician released Bring It On, his fourth album that once again delivered his 100 percent Texan country with style. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that inside his pearl-buttoned Western shirt beats a heart of rock.
That’s no surprise to his myriad of fans who know every word of his honky-tonk anthems such as “Beer, Bait, and Ammo,” “The Lord Loves a Drinking Man,” and “Loose, Loud and Crazy.” Now add “Long Line of Losers” to this list of crowd favorites. It’s a tune Fowler says pokes fun at “that somebody in everyone’s family who annoys them, the relative who gets too drunk at the family reunion.”
Down-home humor and heartfelt sentiment are prominent themes in Kevin’s music. A native of Amarillo who grew up listening to Johnny Cash and Merle Haggard, Fowler rounded out his musical education in Los Angeles attending the Guitar Institute of Technology, and then returned to Texas to join the award-winning hard rock band Dangerous Toys. Though the guitarist never played on a Dangerous Toys album, he performed over 200 shows with the hard rocking outfit in 1993. He left the following year to start an Allman Brothers type band called Thunderfoot, before finally turning his full attention toward country.
Calling Fowler’s music ‘country rock’ is a bit tame for this former headbanging rock guitarist. As he sees it, his hybrid sound melds country with rock, and is the preferred music of a new generation of country fans. These savvy 20- and 30-somethings were raised on MTV, as well as CMT, so they have a discerning ear for both. Their appreciation of country is evenly matched by their appetite for rock, and no one knows that better than a man who actually has lived in both these musical environments.
“Our fans listen to us, AC/DC and Buckcherry,” noted Fowler. “They want to hear what we play because they know we’re going to give country music a certain edge. I’m very thankful we don’t cater to a short-sighted audience. They enjoy the fact we pour our music into a cooking pot, add a bit of Merle here and a dose of Metallica there. What comes out our crowds absolutely eat up.”
That open-minded, sophisticated sensibility of country’s new audience is important to Fowler and played a large part in assembling his last album. His live shows incorporate the usual trappings of a big rock ‘n’ roll event with atmospheric smoke, bright colored lights and elaborate staging.
“I wanted this record to resemble and sound like our live show,” remarked the guitarist. “There are a lot of songs on Bring It On that I wouldn’t have cut before. They were too rock-oriented, and I didn’t want to freak my fan base out that much that. But here’s the one thing I’ve learned about the people that really support this band. They don’t want a traditional country record out of me. They want to see me throw some screaming guitar tracks onto a song and crank up the rhythm section. Their attitude towards this band allows me to be more adventurous in the directions I take our music.”
Though Fowler knows he has a creative license to take his audience on a sonic journey with his music, his songs more often than not, deeply understand the values held by country music loving audiences. Kevin Fowler may encourage his fans to party like a rock star with a track like “Feels Good Don’t It,” then he may tone it down with a reverberating song like “Pulled a Hank Last Night.”
Each new recording brings Fowler close to his heroes. In 2002 it was Willie Nelson who shared the recording studio with Kevin during the recording of “All the Tequila in Tijuana,” on his debut album High on the Hog. During the writing sessions for his latest offering, another idea occurred to the Texas native after penning the tune “Me and the Boy.”
“I immediately thought of George Jones after I wrote the song,” confessed Fowler. “So, I sent him the lyrics and within a week, we were in Nashville cutting the track together. I can’t even begin to describe what it was like to stand beside this man and listen to that magical voice sing one of MY songs. It truly is a moment I’ll never forget.”
Fowler’s workmanlike honky-tonk country is miles beyond anything coming out of Nashville these days. Those that turn out to see him perform will no doubt concur, and maybe even bang their heads to boot. By the end of the show, no one will care.-Record Label: Equity Music Group
Gary Herman- bass
Tracy Martin- guitar
Ken Tondre- drums
Arty Passes- steel guitar