Tuesday, April 24, 2018
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Southern Hospitality brings informal air to Chasco Fiesta's Blues Masters Night

Last summer's Red, White and Blues Festival in Delray Beach was drawing to a close when Damon Fowler found himself jamming on stage with fiery South Florida guitarist J.P. Soars and raucous piano man Victor Wainwright. And there at Boston's on the Beach, amid the inviting guitar licks and pounding of the ivories, Southern Hospitality was born.

"When it came together, we were like, 'Man, this is really cool,' " said Fowler, the acclaimed blues slide guitarist, singer and songwriter from Brandon. Someone suggested the three bluesmen make a gig of it, and a few weeks later the trio played its first official show at the Heritage Music Blues Fest in West Virginia, one of the granddaddies of the blues circuit.

"We had never rehearsed," Fowler said. "We were going on right before Buddy Guy and Kenny Neal — it was huge. But it turned out great."

The accidental trio, which has performed more than a dozen times since then, takes the stage Thursday as the headliners of Chasco Fiesta's Blues Masters Night, which will be held in Sims Park in downtown New Port Richey. And, yes, Southern Hospitality is every bit the come-as-you-are, have-a-good-time musical bash the name suggests.

The group still doesn't practice: "Sometimes before the show we have a verbal rehearsal — we'll just say, 'Hey, why don't you extend this here,' or 'Maybe take this in a different direction,' " Fowler said. The last details are sorted out during the sound check.

The arrangement is equally informal off-stage, where all three performers continue to pursue their own musical projects and tour with their respective bands.

Still, Fowler said the trio expects to cut an album at some point and continue jamming as Southern Hospitality as long as the harmonies feel right.

"Luckily for us, all of us have been in a bunch of different situations, so there's not a lot of ego," Fowler said. "Victor plays a lot of boogie-woogie music that really lends itself greatly to what I do and what J.P. does. (J.P. is) like Michael Jordan on the guitar — he's an incredible guitar player. He does a lot of gypsy jazz sounding stuff."

And Fowler? "I just go up, I just pretend and smile."

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