The woods are full of accomplished guitar pickers, although in the breathless race to be the fastest, fanciest, note-iest hotshot du jour, the idea that there's music to be made sometimes gets a little less attention than it should. The good news is that Mike Dowling and Pat Donohue -- two guys who long ago secured their reps as deadly pickers, and who've never played a superficial, ill-considered note between them -- have made a delicious, fun-packed CD together! It's a testimonial that these two resolutely solo artists fit so well as a duo, and the music that rolls out is more than the sum of its parts -- sweet, swingy, and tasty as home cookin'.
-- from the Elderly Instruments & CDs review of "Two of a Kind"
"Fandango, gospel, waltz, ragtime, Pixinguinha choro, stomp, blues . . .it is all here and the liner notes include guitar details and tuning tips for those that need to know. What more could you possibly want? Mike's voice has an easy, lullaby quality to it; a perfect antidote for calming the nerves after a day working. This is another faultless and essential set for Mike Dowling followers and aficionados of exemplary roots guitar. The CD [Blue Fandango] runs for 43 minutes; Mike Dowling's music is timeless!"
-- Blues in Britain
"An excellent instrumentalist who's comfortable with a wide range of musical styles. On [String Crazy] he overdubs various guitar parts, as well as bass and mandolin, without making things sound cluttered or unnatural. His strongest suit, however, in a hand that includes versatility, musical intelligence and a good ear for material is his ability to communicate. Whether he's playing bottleneck, fingerpicking the blues, strumming a swing chord solo, or singing a country classic, he injects feeling into every word and note."
-- Hit List, Acoustic Guitar
"A delightful collection of traditional blues and ragtime by singer/guitarist Mike Dowling. Dowling is a fluid and precise guitarist and his gritty vocals have a sense of playfulness and bounce that's very appealing. A fun, uptempo recording, [String Crazy] shows that blues recordings don't have to be down and depressing to be enjoyed."
-- Dirty Linen
"[String Crazy] focuses on instrumentals, offering ample evidence of Dowling's guitar mastery. But he's a fine singer too, particularly on the traditional "Nobody's Business" and a cover of the Delmore Brothers' "Blues Stay Away From Me". Dowling still tours, but he spends much of his time teaching at his school, Wind River Guitar. Judging from his playing here, he's a mentor worth seeking out. String Crazy will satisfy blues fans looking for a good guitar album and a fresh take on country blues."
-- Blues Revue
"Mike is no one-trick pony. He plays country blues and throws in some really nice jazz chordal work on the title cut. Check out the pretty work on his National on "Hard Times Come Again No More." His slide playing proves exceptionally strong on cuts like "Make Me Down A Pallet" and "Freight Train Boogie". There's even a bit of blues channeled through some country swing sounds on "Boogie, No Woogie". It comes off sounding like Speedy West and Jimmy Bryant messing around with acoustics. Great stuff. [String Crazy] really is a good listen."
-- Vintage Guitar Magazine
"A masterful guitarist, with flatpicking, fingerstyle and bottleneck all in his repertoire. Beats Workin' surely isn't bluegrass, it's not even close, except that it swings, it's jazzy, it's bluesy, it jumps, strides and rags and it reaches right out and grabs you. If you listen once to Beats Workin', you'll most likely play it forty times in the next five days, as I did.
-- Bluegrass Unlimited
"Outstanding jazz-grass guitar".
-- The Nashville Scene
"Country blues played with sublime facility by Mike Dowling . . . there is absolutely nothing to criticize on [Swamp Dog Blues]. Mike's singing and guitar playing is as natural as oak cask fermentation leading to a heady brew that is truly pure of spirit. The direct to DAT recording brings out all the flavour of Mike's four different guitars used on this project, as well as his warm, laid back vocal stylings. The material covers a spectrum from Mississippi John Hurt to Wynonie Harris with such better known items as Mean Old Frisco and Key to the Highway thrown in for good measure. Mike contributes five originals that effortlessly slot into the proceedings. There are a total of fourteen tracks, all immaculately played. This is one nice record."
-- FolkRoots (UK)
"Performing at one of this year's official Folk Alliance Showcases appeared to be a bit daunting for some of the acts. The room where the showcases were held would have been more appropriate for light aircraft assembly than intimate acoustic music performance, and it was tough to engage an audience that was constantly wondering whether one of the 40-odd unofficial, guerilla showcases happening concurrently would be more interesting. But when Mike Dowling took the stage his National El Trovador guitar sang out his delightful arrangement of "Rosalie", filling the cavernous hall and stopping time for those folk schmoozers lucky enough to be in attendance. Here was a reminder of what had drawn them to folk music in the first place -- a guitar, a great tune, and a gifted and soulful musician. Check your hype and personal agendas at the the door.">
-- Acoustic Guitar (9/98)
"These are fine acoustic blues, recorded intimately and played superby. Clean, relaxed, natural, inventive . . . Swamp Dog Blues is a near perfect front porch album. Quiet without sacrificing excitement, its passion and craftsmanship go hand in hand. And those old guitars sound so sweet."
-- Blues Revue
"If fine blues, bottleneck, and ragtime are your thing, don't pass up Mike Dowling's Swamp Dog Blues. This is an impressive collection of solo guitar and vocals, including six Dowling compositions or collaborations, as well as covers of songs by such artists as Mississippi John Hurt and Big Bill Broonzy. The bottleneck tunes played on resophonic guitars will warm the hearts of blues aficionados and Dowling's guitar wizardy on songs like the ragtime Frogtime Stagger is staggering indeed."
-- Acoustic Musician
"One of the best pickers we've heard in a long time."
--Steve Rubin, KZYX, Philo, CA
"Acoustic guitarist Mike Dowling and multi-instrumentalist Randy Sabien certainly know their way around a fretboard. This wonderful live recording [Live At the Cafe Carpe] showcases the duo's digital dexterity, their warped sense of musical humor, and a stubborn refusal to be typecast stylistically. Few acoustic duos would attempt to cover Fats Waller and the The Delmore Brothers on the same disc but Dowlng and Sabien not only do that, but throw in Ralph Stanley, Willie Dixon, and Chuck Berry for good measure. Highlights include Dowling's Hot Club of France-influenced instrumental 'Carpology', a slyly funky rendition of Dixon's 'Dead Presidents' and an athletic version of Berry's 'Jaguar and Thunderbird' that Mike turns into a singalong. Sabien proves himself to be the consummate accompanist, playing fiddle, mandolin and eight-string guitar which jells with Dowling's warm lead vocals and arsenal of guitar stylings to produce an unusually entertaining live recording."
-- Dirty Linen
"Singer/guitarist Mike Dowling and string king Randy Sabien make some marvelously good-natured acoustic roots music on Live at the Cafe Carpe. The duo tackles a broad spectrum of styles and songwriters . . . Dowling's instrumental contributions to 'Jan's Song' and 'Jitterbug Waltz' are exceptional. It's awfully difficult to dislike anything here, so don't bother trying."
-- Wisconsin State Journal
"Swamp Dog Blues is an utterly pleasing collection of acoustic blues, featuring Dowling's ringing, fluid slide on originals and songs by Big Bill Broonzy, Mississippi John Hurt and Wynonie Harris."
-- The Nashville Scene
"A solid night of great acoustic blues."
-- Austin Chronicle
"Finger-pickin' good. Self-taught and handy with the improv, Dowling is noted for his subtle phrasing and impeccable sense of timing . . . a brilliant fingerpicker, flatpicker and slide guitarist, as well as an exceptional performer, singer, and songwriter. Guitar buffs can't miss this one."
-- Albuquerque Crosswinds