Davy Knowles’ 1932 is not the formal follow-up to his previous studio album, autumn 2016’s Three Miles From Avalon. But neither is this EP a self-indulgent exercise in niche marketing or mere novelty. Six songs performed solely on the Isle of Man native’s treasured National guitar, this is a pure expression of love for music by a musician supremely devoted to his craft and the tools of it.
If you’ve ever seen Knowles in concert with his solo bands and been lucky enough to witness him performing a short acoustic segment, you know he’s as deft with an acoustic instrument as an electric one, no mean feat because the touch required for each type of instrument is so different. Yet because of the dynamic range, Davy presents in just a half-dozen tracks, the element of surprise may be no greater than for the fans or the uninitiated hearing 1932.
Especially in hearing “First Words of A Changing Man,” where the (comparatively) young Knowles sings of life lessons in the weathered voice of one who knows more than his share. Slightly enervated as he sounds in the vigorous strumming of the instrument there, the delicate and patient picking of “Watch Maker Blues” echoes the attention to detail of the artisan to whom the tune is dedicated as much as the man who’s playing it, harmonics and all.
As often as Davy Knowles transcends the blues genre, he never loses track of his roots there, as documented here on “A Spoonful Blues.” But his objects of devotion also includes the contemporary likes of one of his main inspiration, the late great Irish guitar hero Rory Gallagher. Accordingly, it’s hardly a surprise the latter’s “As The Crow Flies” appears on 1932 and it’s probably fair to say it’s inclusion is a fait accompli as Knowles will often play it in concert where his acoustic segments hearken to Gallagher’s own such performances throughout his career.
As celebratory as is the latter track, the following cut is the definition of color in word and delivery. The near slow-motion of Knowles playing not only underscores the refrain of “If I Had A Penny,” but the pacing of this approximately twenty-minute collection of songs. The slightest touch of drums, bass and organ on the final number, ”Liars Club,” simultaneously amplifies the effect and provides a link to Davy’s next full-band recording as well as the ghostly atmosphere of his last one.