Proof positive the world is getting smaller and the “do it yourself “ mantra of the music biz is growing, 54-year-old Spanish language instructor Arthur Fowler has lived in Tokyo the past five years and just released his debut album, What’s Keeping Me Going.
Fowler is a Milwaukee native who studied at the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music for two and a half years in the ’80s. His 11-song collection is an exploration of acoustic guitar sounds and styles ranging from easy folk pop to jazz, Latin, and shades of the Grateful Dead. This self-released album was produced with sensitivity by Seiki Kitano at Bang On Recordings, Tokyo, a professional-quality home studio. According to Fowler, “Tokyo is swarming with first-rate musicians available at an affordable rate." They were also able to exceed Fowler’s modest initial ambitions for a guitar-and-vocals album.
The title track opens with an easy flair introducing Fowler’s lofty tenor, that declares his love and what keeps him going. Matthew Skoller add tasty chromatic harmonica to the political manifesto “Please Try,” and the island grooves continue for “Love the Music,” featuring authentic percussion from Kikuko Yasui.
Jim Ediger adds accordion and fiddle to the self-examination tango take on Hendrix’s “Room Full of Mirrors,” and Fowler shows off his nylon string guitar chops on the meditation to the maker “HU.” He then nimbly comps for himself and demonstrates his study of Wes Montgomery during the swinging duet “Twilight Breeze.” The mood stays jazzy for “The New York Song,” with a nimble trio joining in. Neil Young’s “For the Turnstiles” is read with authentic country style and is surely a favorite of Fowler's set in the Tokyo clubs.
The atmospheric Middle Eastern-flavored “Splash” features more creative percussion sounds from Kikuko Yasui, and just a touch of Seattle grunge. The album closes with another raving duet, “On The Verge," wher Fowler trades barbs with himself on acoustic guitars, and burns up all the chops he’s got.
Congrats to Fowler for sticking to his guns and realizing his dream of making his own album, 42 years after getting his first guitar.