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‘Maui in the Sun’ shines on father-son collaboration

Damian Knapp spent most of his life apart from his father, Peter Knapp.

The one thing they shared is a love of music. The father played flugelhorn and sang some with I Don’t Care, a local horn-driven rock / soul / jazz band that was signed to Buddha Records in the mid ’70s. The son picked up the guitar instead of the horn and has fronted numerous bands over the years, from Fester Presley to Machine Gun Mary to the Stevie Ray Vaughan tribute act Testify, and he plays out regularly as a solo act.

“Maui in the Sun,” which Damian released this month, is their one collaboration, a collection of songs they wrote together before his father’s death in 2003.

“This is not a tribute album,” Knapp said. “My dad and I spent most of our lives here together estranged. He lived in Maui from 1987 to 2001. For 14 years he never left the island. I went out twice to visit him, and it didn’t really work out either time.”

“What’s special about this music is, where we connected, where we got along, where we could enjoy each other’s company was through music, our love of writing music and listening to music. We’re both pack rat music collectors.”

This is Knapp’s second attempt to do justice to their collaboration. A decade ago he released some of this material as “Will You Cry When I Die?,” but “Maui” reworks those tracks with the help of Mike Talanca at Tune Town recording studio in Newton Falls.

“This time around, I reinterpreted the music my dad and I wrote together from my perspective as a guitarist,” he said. “I got these songs to the essence of what they sounded like when my father and I wrote them together. They have been recorded for this album from scratch, and I deleted a few from the last album.”

“Maui in the Sun” has Knapp working with some of his father’s I Don’t Care bandmates — Roger Hatfield, Frank Bayzie, Bill Scudier — as well as John Sferra, Teddy Pantelas, Jeff Bremer, Gary Lee McKimmie, Chris Trzcinski, Kevin Mazey, Matt Petrarca, Darren Thompson and Talanca.

“I had more of an idea what I wanted sonically, and Talanca — being the collaborator that he is — allowed me to have final say on what we ended up with, and that was important,” Knapp said. “By working with Talanca, I developed an ear for what I want to hear production-wise. I like a more stripped-down feel. ‘Will You Cry When I Die?’ was over-produced. This is more intimate.”

Saturday’s show at the Holiday Bar will serve as both a CD release show and a Fester Presley reunion with Knapp playing with Tommy Bumbico, Gary Mills and Bob Bacha. The CD is available at Knapp’s gigs and the album is available as a digital download at www.cdbaby.com.

“Maui in the Sun” is the first of several CDs that Knapp could release before the end of the year. Knapp’s aunt gave him a cassette of his father reading some of his poetry in Maui. He and Talanca mixed those spoken word elements with instrumentals from I Don’t Care’s demo recordings. He also wants to release the I Don’t Care demos, which were recorded around 1974.

“These demos are what landed them their record deal,” Knapp said. “It’s more jazz oriented. It’s looser, more funk and R&B-influenced.”

Knapp, 43, also is revisiting his own catalog. “Decay in Our Cities,” released in 2010, has been remastered, and the five blues covers that made up the second half of the disc have been replaced by five new blues rock originals. He re-recorded all of the vocals for his Machine Gun Mary CD and wants to re-release that as well. He wants to focus attention on “Maui in the Sun” now, but all of those projects essentially are finished.

“The desire to bring my dad’s music back to life, that got me in the mood to start writing and recording again,” Knapp said. “It was a combination of my dad inspiring me again and Talanca. I met the right engineer, and we just started getting into all of this stuff.”

agray@tribtoday.com