What's Keeping Me Going Folk, Acoustic Arthur Fowler Arthur Fowler has an interesting history, especially as folk artists go. First of all, he released his debut album, "What's Keeping Me Going", in Tokyo. This is American folk we're talking about, so suffice it to say that most of us in the western world don't normally associate Japan with having a thriving folk music scene. Apparently it does, however, as evidenced by the fact that Fowler got lots of his Japan-based folk and blues buddies to help on the album. Fowler plays in a few other folk and jazz bands in Japan and tours with artists in Europe, the US and Japan. He came to this end by way of Wisconsin, after graduating from the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music and working with many musicians there. Unfortunately, Fowler's history seems to be the only interesting thing about him. The debut solo album is flat, monochromatic and in spots it's just jumbled. It does have its good points, however, and Fowler clearly has talent, technique, and clean production. What is the main problem with this album then? Largely, it's over-ambitious. First the good things. Arthur Fowler has a clear dexterity and skill with the guitar which is probably why he landed so many tours with great jazz artists like Eva Denia and Mark Schaefler. His playing is reminiscent of Carlos Santana, but with not as much Latin flare. He also has a clear, even voice which lends itself very well to folk; the closest comparison that can be made would be to James Taylor. With these two elements, Fowler's potential should be good. There is one shining example of Fowler's potential in solo folk. The song 'Hu' (pronounced 'you' in English), features Fowler's lovely voice paired with his well-heeled guitar. This is also a nice collaboration featuring Kei Tagasuki on electric guitar. The song's title and lyrics are clever, alluding to the bi-lingual pun made in the title as well as the elusive concept of 'hu' in Japanese and its relationship to self-identity and love. It's clear from 'Hu' that Fowler has the musical, intellectual and production chops to put together a good song. So what about the rest of the album? For the most part there's nothing necessarily wrong, just not a whole lot that's outstanding. Pabulum may be too strong a word, so maybe underwhelming is a better fit. The title track is well-written musically, but a little nonsensical in the lyrics. Songs like 'Love the Music' and 'Twilight Breeze' seem destined for elevator and phone queue hold music. 'The New York Song' and 'Here I Am' are only slightly more interesting and could be played in the piano bar of a hotel. The forgettable nature of most of the songs on "What's Keeping Me Going" is not the only unfortunate element of this album. It seems that from the early days of his musical career, Fowler has been a fan of classic rock legends like Jimi Hendrix and Neil Young. He attempts a cover song by each of these on the album, with poor results. Fowler's cover of 'For the Turnstiles' by Neil Young is re-tooled for his folk sensibilities. While not terrible, it doesn't capture any of the edge endemic in Young's original. Similarly with 'Room Full of Mirrors,' the Jimi Hendrix cover, Fowler falls flat and the stab he makes at completely changing genres for this classic song ends up making it sound muddled and confused. On further inspection, it seems that Arthur Fowler was both overly ambitious and a little too safe on his debut album. With his original songs, Fowler could have taken some more chances and showcased his guitar talent more. These songs while clean, sound over-produced and lack any real emotion. The over-excitement comes into play with both originals and covers, as the fusing of styles between rock, folk, blues, jazz and Caribbean music isn't quite pulled off properly. Of course as a lowly music critic I don't have any suggestions on how to fix these things, but with the talent and skill Fowler already has and the good group of musicians surrounding him in his unlikely home base of Tokyo, it's possible that all he needs is time to sort out a more impactful release on the next try. In the meantime, 'Hu,' the album's fifth track, is definitely worth a listen and even a download if you enjoy classic 60s folk with a little blues flare. 350
Brutal Resonance

Arthur Fowler - What's Keeping Me Going

5.5
"Mediocre"
Released off label 2015
Arthur Fowler has an interesting history, especially as folk artists go. First of all, he released his debut album, "What's Keeping Me Going", in Tokyo. This is American folk we're talking about, so suffice it to say that most of us in the western world don't normally associate Japan with having a thriving folk music scene. Apparently it does, however, as evidenced by the fact that Fowler got lots of his Japan-based folk and blues buddies to help on the album.

Fowler plays in a few other folk and jazz bands in Japan and tours with artists in Europe, the US and Japan. He came to this end by way of Wisconsin, after graduating from the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music and working with many musicians there.
Unfortunately, Fowler's history seems to be the only interesting thing about him. The debut solo album is flat, monochromatic and in spots it's just jumbled. It does have its good points, however, and Fowler clearly has talent, technique, and clean production. What is the main problem with this album then? Largely, it's over-ambitious.

First the good things. Arthur Fowler has a clear dexterity and skill with the guitar which is probably why he landed so many tours with great jazz artists like Eva Denia and Mark Schaefler. His playing is reminiscent of Carlos Santana, but with not as much Latin flare. He also has a clear, even voice which lends itself very well to folk; the closest comparison that can be made would be to James Taylor. With these two elements, Fowler's potential should be good.

There is one shining example of Fowler's potential in solo folk. The song 'Hu' (pronounced 'you' in English), features Fowler's lovely voice paired with his well-heeled guitar. This is also a nice collaboration featuring Kei Tagasuki on electric guitar. The song's title and lyrics are clever, alluding to the bi-lingual pun made in the title as well as the elusive concept of 'hu' in Japanese and its relationship to self-identity and love. It's clear from 'Hu' that Fowler has the musical, intellectual and production chops to put together a good song.

So what about the rest of the album? For the most part there's nothing necessarily wrong, just not a whole lot that's outstanding. Pabulum may be too strong a word, so maybe underwhelming is a better fit. The title track is well-written musically, but a little nonsensical in the lyrics. Songs like 'Love the Music' and 'Twilight Breeze' seem destined for elevator and phone queue hold music. 'The New York Song' and 'Here I Am' are only slightly more interesting and could be played in the piano bar of a hotel.

The forgettable nature of most of the songs on "What's Keeping Me Going" is not the only unfortunate element of this album. It seems that from the early days of his musical career, Fowler has been a fan of classic rock legends like Jimi Hendrix and Neil Young. He attempts a cover song by each of these on the album, with poor results. Fowler's cover of 'For the Turnstiles' by Neil Young is re-tooled for his folk sensibilities. While not terrible, it doesn't capture any of the edge endemic in Young's original. Similarly with 'Room Full of Mirrors,' the Jimi Hendrix cover, Fowler falls flat and the stab he makes at completely changing genres for this classic song ends up making it sound muddled and confused.

On further inspection, it seems that Arthur Fowler was both overly ambitious and a little too safe on his debut album. With his original songs, Fowler could have taken some more chances and showcased his guitar talent more. These songs while clean, sound over-produced and lack any real emotion. The over-excitement comes into play with both originals and covers, as the fusing of styles between rock, folk, blues, jazz and Caribbean music isn't quite pulled off properly.

Of course as a lowly music critic I don't have any suggestions on how to fix these things, but with the talent and skill Fowler already has and the good group of musicians surrounding him in his unlikely home base of Tokyo, it's possible that all he needs is time to sort out a more impactful release on the next try. In the meantime, 'Hu,' the album's fifth track, is definitely worth a listen and even a download if you enjoy classic 60s folk with a little blues flare. Mar 15 2015

Off label

Official release released by the artist themselves without the backing of a label.

Layla Marino

info@brutalresonance.com
Writer and contributor on Brutal Resonance

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