Sunday, 8 March 2015

David Knowles

Voodoo Rooms, Edinburgh - 8th March 2015

The atmosphere in the Ball Room of Edinburgh's Voodoo Rooms was that of a private party, expectant but not too rowdy. The venue was small and intimate, with twinkling stars peeking through the surrounding black backdrops.  This was the launch of David Knowles' debut album "Footsteps", a testament to the artist's years on the road (released on the 9th March 2015 and available here to purchase or stream). 

Due to a glitch with the stage lighting, the gig was a little late starting, but at around 10:30pm Knowles and his band took their places on a deliberately darkened stage to much applause.

 Matt Varty, Claire Schiavone, Dave Ross and David Knowles

While the stage remained dark (apart from the starlight), we were treated to a beautiful extended cello introduction to Silence In The StormClaire Schiavone on electric cello setup a looped background, then added more cello layers before Knowles soulful vocals told the story of being far from home and changed perceptions. Imagine Ray LaMontagne meets Yo Yo Ma and you'd be close. Although quite dark in tone and mood, this was a very fine opener, and when the lights came up the partisan crowd rightly expressed their delight. 

Knowles appeared relaxed and confident as he welcomed everyone, and launched into the next song, On The Road. Drum and acoustic guitar driven, On The Road is a good example of Knowles vocal style, which has been compared to Eddie Vedder, Ray LaMontagne and even Chris Rea. But Knowles is actually grittier and more soulful than these, particularly on the more bluesy tracks. 

Howlin' At The Moon was next - a wonderfully atmospheric performance with cello, cajón (Spanish drum box), understated guitar and  pain-fueled vocals.

"I walk this lonely road, holding out my hands.
All I can feel is cold, shaking all my bones.
Angels follow, calling out my name, 
'cause they can feel my sorrow playing all these messed up games we play.
And I'm howlin'. I'm howlin' at the moon."

Howlin' At The Moon

David Knowles explained that he'd been playing guitar since he was 17 and now at 33 this was the launch of his debut album "Footsteps". He'd spent much of the intervening years honing his guitar skills and for 12 of those years travelling the globe, (including Latin America, Asia and Europe) providing him with a rich vein of inspiration for his songwriting and familiarity with a wide range of instruments. 

Lightening the mood a little, a new instrumental track was next, featuring guitar and a Swahili Djembe drum. 

The set also included several covers: 
Ain't No Sunshine, the Bill Withers classic was performed solo, just Knowles and guitar, emphasising the pain and despair of the song, and Knowles' ability on guitar. 

A song often associated with Jimi Hendrix (but actually written by Scottish folk singer Len Partridge and William Moses "Billy" Roberts when they both performed in clubs in Edinburgh in 1956), Hey Joe was handled in soulful folk style. 
Both of these covers appear on the album.

Sympathy For The Devil (not on the Footsteps album) was one of the highlights of the gig, with Dave Ross moving out from behind his kit to play bongos. Knowles' vocals were really strong on this (despite his sore throat) and the audience joined in with the "Ooo, hoo, hoo's" 
Sympathy For The Devil

Other highlights for me were:
The Alchemist - the first David Knowles song I'd heard when he released his debut E.P. The Alchemist on 19th January 2015. This is a mature piece of songwriting which received substantial radio airplay earlier this year. This live rendition did not disappoint.

Satisfy My Soul - is probably still my favourite track from the Footsteps album, and here the live performance was really excellent. Gentle blues/soul start followed by an up-tempo finale filled with foreboding strings, footstomps and backing vocals. Knowles' distinctive vocals again particularly good on this song.

The final song of the evening was Child Soldier, a dark tale recounting the effect of the Khmer Rouge on 13yr old Khouy in Cambodia, repeating “I wanna leave this all behind”.
This live rendition of the album, plus additional material, provided a damn fine launch evening. David Knowles work is definitely intense and often dark in tone and mood, but the quality of the songwriting is obvious and I look forward to future material.

The artwork, which incorporates the lyrics, on the CD inner booklet (example above) is by Grisel Miranda and complements the musical content perfectly. If, like me, you still enjoy the physical aspect of owning music, be it vinyl or CD, this album is well worth parting with your hard earned cash to own.

David's Band Members:
Electric cello & tambourine: Claire Schiavone
Bass & cajón: Matt Varty
Drums, shakers, Djembe drum & Bongo's: Dave Ross

Silence In The Storm
On The Road
Howling At The Moon
New track - Swahili Djembe drum
Ain't No Sunshine
The Air You Breathe
Hey Joe
The Alchemist
Satisfy My Soul
Sympathy For The Devil
Child Soldier

Upcoming gigs:
"Live in your lounge” : To say thank you to his social media followers, David has arranged to play small, intimate gigs in selected fans’ living rooms where the host will introduce songs for a camera crew with the resulting video being aired on David’s YouTube channel. To win the opportunity to host your own David Knowles Living Room show, sign up here to the David Knowles mailing list.

Saturday 14/03/15: “Live in your lounge”. Lanark, Scotland.

Friday 27/03/15: “Live in your lounge”. Wexford, Ireland.

Saturday 28/03/15: “Live in our lounge”. Liverpool, England.

Sunday 29/03/15: Live on SW1 Radio with Angelika Miller. London, England. 7pm-11pm. LIsten live:

Monday 30/03/15 @ 7:30pm: The Bedford (Balham, London SW12 9HD). An iconic live music venue in London which has showcased emerging artists such as Ed Sheeran. Entry is free and the event will be filmed for YouTube so arrive early to avoid disappointment

Saturday 18/04/15: “Live in your lounge”. Amsterdam, Netherlands.

Sunday 19/04/15: “Live in your lounge”. Leeuwarden, Netherlands.


The support was:

El Cameroon
Scottish indie folk singer/songwriter Niall Cameroon is the voice, guitar and soul behind El Cameroon.
He performed 3 songs from his "The Obsession EP" which was recorded in various locations over the period of a year and released in 2013.

El Cameroon

He kicked off with "a bit of a downer, a song about regret and anger" Sad Lost Selfish Son
Niall confessed to being quite nervous after this first song, but his ability to engage the audience belied this. 

The Trigger was next, covering the subject of departing friends and being torn between loss when they leave, and happiness at their good fortune.

The title track Little Obsession, which Niall described as "I once really liked a girl for a couple of years but never told her. Cos I'm a bit weird like that" tells a story of raw confusion - of a struggle towards love, loss and finally acceptance.

Little Obsession

His set was necessarily short due to the aforementioned stage light issue, but I enjoyed the songs and bought the EP on the strength of his performance.


  1. annie mackenzie10 March 2015 at 16:34

    it was inspirational to hear all the different sounds from the range of instruments that were being played . it was a pleasurable Sunday evening , time stood still.

    1. It was a lovely gig Annie - and all the more enjoyable because it was such an intimate venue. So glad I was able to attend

  2. Fine comprehensive write-up - the battle for Hey Joe royalties I never knew about - I assumed it was a blues standard from way back - Voodoo Rooms are a real up-close-and-personal venue.

    1. Yes, love the Voodoo Rooms for gigs. Mind you it has been a while since I was there - Eilidh McKellar in Apr 2014