Singer-songwriter, Milwaukee native and Tokyo transplant Arthur Fowler has culled influences from Jimi Hendrix, Cat Stevens and Carlos Santana to create his own fusion of acid-folk on his debut, “What’s Keeping Me Going.”
Fowler uses other instruments such as harmonica, accordion and fiddle to express his lounge-jazz style and to incorporate flecks of flamenco and psychedelic folk. And sometimes what is revealed is a success.
On the title track, the sound of running water, birds and calm harmonies melt with acoustic finger work and gentle bongo drums to create a sweet and tender love song, while the Caribbean motion of “Love The Music” is delicately played and stays light on its feet — indicative of the overall melodic sway of “What’s Keeping Me Going.”
But his contemporary retelling of Jimi Hendrix’ “Room Full Of Mirrors,” while honest, leaves only the lyrics as a reminder of that cutting song, replacing anguish and lust with busy zydeco and jazz notes. On Neil Young’s “For the Turnstiles,” Fowler stays more faithful to that country-folk classic, but it’s far less memorable. Fowler’s preference for a slower tempo drags things down a bit too much.
The despair in the guitar notes of “Splash” are touching, but when he switches tracks and deadpans “I can’t live without your loving, I can’t live at all,” it clumsily misses the mark. The blues-tinged harmonica and obvious lyrics are misguided, though it’s clear Fowler is trying to express ambivalence and struggle.
Despite a few missteps, at least one shade of Fowler’s eclectic style on “What’s Keeping Me Going” should appeal to those seeking a new take on folk.