DAVID KNOWLES-CHILD SOLDIER.
DAVID KNOWLES-CHILD SOLDIER.
After the fall of Troy, Odysseus’ journey back from the Trojan War took ten years. The Trojan War had lasted ten years. In total, Odysseus had been away from home twenty years. That just happens to be same time that David Knowles’ musical odyssey lasted. It began nearly twenty years ago, when David Knowles first picked up a guitar.
Twenty years later, and David Knowles released his debut album Footsteps earlier this year. Critical acclaim accompanied the release of Footsteps. A great future was forecast for the Edinburgh based singer-songwriter.
Since then, David embarked upon his Spring tour. It criss-crossed Britain. In towns and cities, David played songs from Footsteps, including his new single Child Soldier. It’s a single with a social conscience from David Knowles, whose musical odyssey began twenty years ago.
Back in the mid-nineties, grunge was King. Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Mudhoney and Soundgarden were at the peak of their popularity. Straight away, David Knowles was hooked. Inspired by the musical vortex that was grunge, David began to explore other musical genres.
It made sense to start at what is the genesis of modern music, the blues. One of David’s earliest discoveries was Leadbelly, a giant of the blues who cheated the hangman and survived the notorious Angola prison. While other bluesmen caught David’s attention, so did some of the greatest American lyricists.
This included the “Dust Bowl Troubadour,” Woody Guthrie. He came to prominence in the thirties. This was just after the Depression, and the Wall Street Crash of 1929. Woody Guthrie started of as a folk singer. Soon, he became America’s social conscience. David appreciated, and could relate to the music of Woody Guthrie. It spoke to him. So did the music of Bob Dylan, who two generations later, followed in the footsteps of Woody Guthrie.
Just like so many aspiring singer-songwriters, Bob Dylan would go on to influence David Knowles as a singer and songwriter. Just like Woody Guthrie before him, Bob Dylan was the spokesman for a generation. He spoke to, and for them. When David discovered Bob Dylan, his music was just as relevant. Like all good music, it has a timeless quality.
The same can be said of another of David Knowles’ inspirations, Jimi Hendrix. As an aspiring guitarist, David could appreciate Jimi’s effortless talent and stagecraft. A flamboyant, virtuoso performer, Jimi, who had been inspired by T-Bone Walker, seemed to revel in the limelight. As he took to the stage, Jimi came alive. He was totally transformed, and in a tragically short career, released albums that would influence two generations. This included David Knowles. He watched and learnt. Little did he realise that when he released his debut solo album Footsteps on 9th March 2015 it would feature a Jimi Hendrix song.
Footsteps was released hot on the heels of David Knowles’ debut E.P. The Alchemist. It was released on 19th January 2015. Hailed as “mesmeric,” The Alchemist found its way onto radio playlists, where it became a firm favourite of DJs and listeners. This bodes well for Footsteps, the album David Knowles has dreamt about making for nearly twenty years.
Growing up, with hopes and dreams of making a career out music, David’s musical tastes became eclectic. As well as blues, folk and rock, David discovered proto punk pioneers The Velvet Underground. This was the latest discovery in David’s musical journey. It seemed each discovery lead to another. David was in the midst of a musical and literary awakening.
It wasn’t just music David was soaking up like a sponge. No. Before long, David was discovering literature. This included the poetry of William Blake, the doyen of the Romantic Age. From William Blake, David discovered Oscar Wilde, playwright, poet and cultural commentator. For a future songwriter, this would stand him in good stead. So would David’s love of Hunter S. Thompson, who in his own inimitable way, said: “The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There’s also a negative side.” Despite this, David wasn’t put off following his dream of making a career out of music. In sporting terms, David’s musical career was a career of two halves.
David’s dreams of becoming a musician became reality when he was a teenager. In the time honoured fashion, David played in a series of bands. Just like generations before him, David was serving his musical apprenticeship. That stood David in good stead. He then joined Manchester indie band Solarslide as their guitarist. This was a step up the musical ladder. By then, however, David had caught the travel bug.
This isn’t unusual. Many people enjoy a gap year. Some manage to stretch it to two or three years. After all, travel broadens the mind. So inspired by Jack Kerouac’s seminal road trip novel, On The Road, David Knowles hit the road. This was no gap year though. Far from it. David road trip took him slightly longer. Two years became three, and eventually, David returned home after twelve long years.
During this twelve year Odyssey, David’s travels took him to three continents, Latin America, Asia and Europe. This somewhat leisurely stroll round the world, certainly broadened David’s mind and provided him with a wealth of material for his new career.
On his return home to Britain, David who for twelve years, had lived a nomadic lifestyle, settled in Edinburgh, the self-style Athens of the North. There the second part of David’s career took shape. He decided to embark upon a solo career. His travels would inspire his music, including that on his debut solo album Footsteps.
Wanderlust never quite leaves someone. Once they’ve had a tantalising taste of the nomadic lifestyle it never quite leaves them. David has been there. He’s slept on beaches, with the stars as a blanket. So, settling back into to “normal” life wasn’t going to be easy. However, life as a musician is very different from that of a pen pusher or desk jockey. A musician spends much of his time on the road, travelling between concerts and festivals. The rest of the time is spent writing songs and recording them. For David Knowles, this was the perfect career.
Now living in Edinburgh, David started playing live. Soon, he was establishing a reputation as one of the rising stars of Edinburgh’s music scene. Then David discovered musical soul mates in the form of cellist Claire Schiavone and percussionist, keyboardist and producer Matt Varty. They would feature on Footsteps, David’s debut solo album.
For Footsteps, David’s debut solo album, he penned seven of the nine tracks. The other two tracks were covers of Bill Withers’ Ain’t No Sunshine and Jimi Hendrix’s classic Hey Joe. These tracks are given a makeover by David, who dawns the role of musical Alchemist. To do this, he relies upon a selection of instruments he discovered on his road trip. This includes a didjeridoo, African djembe drum and far eastern dulcimer. These instruments play a part in David Knowles Footsteps’ sound and success.
Before Footsteps was released, it was much anticipated debut album. The cat was out of the bag, David Knowles was an artist with a great future in front of him. Critics and cultural commentators agreed. This was reflected in the reviews. Plaudits and superlatives were exhausted by critics. They were impressed by David’s skills as a singer, songwriter and musician. David brought lyrics to life, breathing meaning and emotion into them. In other songs, David Knowles was following in the footsteps of Woodie Guthrie, and became music’s social conscience. This was the case on Child Soldier, which David Knowles recently released as his second single.
Child Soldier shows another side of David Knowles. Ominous drums play in the distance. In front of the drums, sits David’s guitar and vocal. A roll of drums, hissing hi-hats and grungey guitars is the signal for David to kick loose. What follows is wall of sound and social comment. Blistering, driving guitar licks and David’s staccato vocal combine. Desperately, David sings: “I want to leave this behind,” as if the horrors of the Child Soldier are burnt on his retinas.
Just three months after the release of his debut album Footsteps, David Knowles returns with his sophomore single Child Soldier. This is a truly captivating track, where David Knowles becomes music’s social conscience. It’s as if he’s witnessed the horrors and results of the Child Soldiers during his twelve year Odyssey. That becomes apparent when one listens to the lyrics.
The way David delivers the lyrics, it’s as if these images have been burnt on David’s retinas. They certainly leave a lasting impression. Especially with lyrics like: “my name is Khouy but you can call me cadre. I’m only thirteen but you listen to everything I say.” No wonder. The Child Soldier wields a gun, as they fight for something they don’t understand. Instead, it’s self preservation, and survival of the theory. This wasn’t what Charles Darwin had in mind. However, he never foresaw the gun wielding, Child Soldier. David Knowles must have; and has decided to highlight the problem on his debut album Footsteps.
Unlike many modern albums, Footsteps was a refreshingly old school album. It lasted just twenty nine minutes. That’s all many classic albums used to last. Nick Drake’s never released an album that lasted thirty minutes. By then, the reclusive genius had said all he had to say. Sadly, that’s not the case any more.
Most albums are sprawling affairs where artists are determined to fill the CD. Personally, I wish more artists would follow in David Knowles’ Footsteps. His debut album was a captivating musical journey lasting nine songs and twenty-nine minutes. The music was variously understated, beautiful, melancholy, poignant, soul-baring and cinematic. Other times, hurt and heartache is omnipresent, as David draws inspiration from everyone from Damien Rice, Nick Drake, Jimmy Hendrix, Leadbelly, Jose Gonzales and the “Dust Bowl Troubadour,” Woody Guthrie. Then there’s the literary works of William Blake, Oscar Wilde, Hunter S. Thompson and Jack Kerouac. That’s not forgetting the twelve years David spent travelling. They’ve without doubt influenced David Knowles music. Footsteps featured tales of love, love lost, road trips and of course the story of the Child Soldier; which is David Knowles new single and one of the most moving and captivating tracks you’ll hear this year.
DAVID KNOWLES-CHILD SOLDIER.