Guy Davis sounds as though he is in direct contact with the old masters
There was a time when acoustic blues was seen as an integral and vital part of the American folk scene. Musicians like Son House, Leadbelly, Sonny Terry and and the appeared regularly at folk festivals and were loved and admired by the likes of Bob Dylan, Pete Seeger and Joan Baez. Today that tradition, which has almost vanished, lives on with a small band of younger blues performers including Taj Mahal, Eric Bibb and Guy Davis. On this wonderful album, named after a very bluesy Dylan song which opens the recording, Davis reaches back and offers fresh version of Leadbelly's "Follow Me Down" and "Ain't Goin' Down", Willie Dixon's "Hoochie Coochie Man", Son House's "Down South Blues" and a wonderfully big, sensuous version of Big Joe Williams' "Baby Please Don't Go". So much contemporary blues is weak and pallid. Guy Davis is never like that. He has a power and authenticity which makes him sound as though he is in direct contact with the old masters. And, interestingly, his own compositions (of which there are seven on this recording) are so in tune with the tradition that they seem as though they were written after a hard day in the cottonfields.
"Difficult to judge with the "right distance" the work of a person with whom you have had the privilege of playing. Difficult. Unless they are not of the caliber of artist Guy Davis, regarded by all, but by all, one of the best bluesman in circulation. Writing of him and his music, the New York Times used words like "talent, charisma and authority" and Living Blues has talked of "impeccable craftsmanship" and "lyrical vision." Not least was the magazine "Mojo" who said that "today nobody knows how to mix the thousand aspects of Afro-American music such as Guy Davis." Blues Border: Sweetheart Like You (Click here for the article.)
"The evening included performances by Sweet Honey in the Rock, Josh White Jr., Steve Earle and Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul and Mary. Standout musical moments included Guy Davis’s performance of “Payday” — a traditional finger picked country blues in which he recalled visiting Odetta in the hospital — and Pete Seeger, still sturdy at 89, leading the entire congregation through the worksong "Take this Hammer.” Rolling Stone: Fans, Musicians Gather to Remember Odetta in New York (Click here for the article.)
"Often touted as a member of the new generation of country blues artists, Guy Davis is well-versed in the music's traditions. His Red House albums Stomp Down Rider (1995), Call Down Thunder (1996), You Don't Know My Mind (1998), and Butt Naked Free (2000) gained him recognition for his playing style and lyrical sensibilities. In a recent guest column for 'Blues Revue', Davis tackles a subject that still rankles some fans and performers: What has race got to do with playing the blues?" (Click here for the article.) "No matter how you look at it, the issue isn't simply black and white."
Guy Davis Live Review
GUY DAVIS @The Bullfrog Blues Club, Southsea.
I think this was the first time that I've been to a blues gig where the performer was celebrating their birthday and Guy certainly was in buoyant mood that evening and really delivered the goods. He plays solo acoustic music, which is drawn from deep within the African American musical tradition and so is not restricted to just blues but includes material from the Ragtime and Songster (pre-blues, i.e. folk) eras, a theme that is echoed in his current CD on Red House Records "Legacy".
He performed on six-string, twelve-string and banjo, using the slide on the twelve string numbers. Also he blew some crazy harp on a solo piece that, although I have heard him perform "live" before, I never tire of, a number that whilst it told a tale was basically an amalgam of many showcase harmonica effects employed by bluesmen over the years. It featured imitations of the human voice, trains, pigs and being chased across the countryside on horseback among others and the reasons for including particular "sound effects" became more outrageous as the tale went on. Needless to say for such a tour de force it was hugely entertaining, not to mention funny, and received due recognition from the audience.
Acoustic Sussex Review
He's a musician, composer, actor, director, and writer. But more than anything, as we heard this evening, Guy Davis is an authentic and spell-binding bluesman, with an incredible voice and a great sense of humour.
Entire review available at Guy Davis Gig Review.
First, an explanatory note: I refrain from calling these "The Best of 2004" because the following list is but one man's biased opinion. I have culled these from the many good recordings that crossed my CD player this year. I'm sure I forgot to include a few notable recordings. All told, I estimate "The Midnight Special" received at least 600 new recordings, and I listened to about 400 new recordings, of which about 200 made it into the WFMT library, and about 110 received airplay. I do not include reissues and most compilations among these favorites. As the cut-off date is November 1, some of the newest recordings will not be considered until next year.
It was really hard to boil my favorites down to a mere 14 releases this year. There was no insufficiency of great music. While I thought about these choices long and hard for several weeks, if not most of the year, had I made the list a day earlier or a day later it might have been slightly different.
Among Rich's favorites was Guy's Legacy:
Guy Davis has been steadily improving at his craft since he arrived a few years back. He has a natural understanding of his material and an intellectual vision of it. You'll have to actually buy the CD to see what his goal is with this recording, but there's a rather interesting booklet and opening track to say the least. (We can't play the opening track on the radio.) Besides top notch performances of well chosen songs, mostly traditional and a few original, there's a message with this CD that you will realize when you read his notes and listen to it in its entirely.
If a good friend visited from out-of-town with only an hour or two to spare, and asked me to play my favorites from 2004, I would play the following, in this case in no particular order. Actually, I have purchased quantities of several of them to give to friends for the holidays.
-Richard Warren, WFMT
Like the best early bluesmen, Guy Davis is, at heart, a storyteller. A master at setting intimate, richly nuanced tales to stomping acoustic blues backing, often with folky accompaniment from mandolin, banjo, and accordion, he helped revitalize the state of country blues in the 1990s with a string of critically acclaimed albums for Red House Records.
"A singer and guitarist in the rural mould of Robert Johnson and Mississippi John Hurt, he has got a voice like Howlin' Wolf dipped in honey. He is also an enchanting storyteller, able to deliver a shaggy-dog story while barking and simultaneously making train noises on a harmonica - a reminder of a time when the phrase "novelty song" didn't necessarily have music-lovers running for the exits. He utilised ye olde food/sex metaphor in Home Cooked Meal and made it sound dirtier than you would have thought possible. He is fabulous."
"I disagree with Guy Davis. Contrary to his third album's title, You Don't Know My Mind, I feel I do. He's smart and humane, deals with his political alienation, thinks highly of sex and understands that blues authenticity depends on forthright spirit rather than perfect reproduction of the classics."
- Charles M. Young
"It's difficult to know where to begin with the story of New York City bluesman Guy Davis. Accomplished and acclaimed as a musician, composer, actor, director and writer, Davis somehow makes the term multi-talented seem woefully inadequate."
- Jim Musser
"He has his own talent for storytelling... Davis draws from the same well that fed Fats Waller, Willie Dixon and Muddy Waters."