Guy Davis: Juba Dance

Acoustic blues virtuoso Guy Davis will release his new album, Juba Dance, on September 10th. The album’s thirteen tracks, most of which feature harmonica player Fabrizio Poggi, are a mix of Guy Davis originals and covers of songs by Muddy Waters, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Rev. Robert Wilkins and Blind Willie McTell.

Singer Lea Gilmore duets on “Some Cold Rainy Day” and The Blind Boys of Alabama lend vocals to the chilling “See That My Grave is Kept Clean.”

The standout tracks are: the buoyant Muddy Waters cover “My Eyes Keep Me in Trouble;” the uniquely rhythmic original “Dance Juba Dance” and the bluesy “Black Coffee.”

The only track I don’t like at all is “Have You Seen My Baby.” I admire the concept of dueling vocals and harmonica, but the result is an irksome listen. But that’s a minor complaint for an otherwise excellent album.

You can watch Guy Davis and Fabrizio Poggi perform “That’s No Way to Get Along” live below…

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Guy Davis Official Site

Otis Taylor: Recapturing The Banjo

The magnificent Recapturing The Banjo features Otis Taylor, Guy Davis, Corey Harris, Alvin Youngblood Hart, Keb’ Mo’, Cassie Taylor, and Don Vappie. The awe-inspiring all-star album is an ode to the progressive past of banjo playing from its African origins to its Mountain string band and bluegrass evolution through the jug bands of the 1920s and the blues-rock of the 60’s up to the twisted folk-blues of modern artists like Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band.

The opener “Ran So Hard The Sun Went Down” has shades of Rev. Peyton‘s plucky banjo thump courtesy of Corey Harris and Alvin Youngblood Hart, though Otis Taylor’s vocals are a tad impassive for a song that follows a Southern black man on the run from the KKK in the 1930s. Guy Davis plays mandolin and Keb’ Mo’ plays bass while Hart sings on “A Prophet’s Mission”.

Its “Absinthe” that really gives the album a kick, as Otis’ voice reaches into a bluesier depth. Keb’ Mo’ takes lead vocals on the inspirational “Live Your Life”, which features a robust cornet garnish.

Corey Harris and Guy Davis duet on a glorious, jolly rendition of Gus Cannon’s “Walk Right In”. The cover of “Hey Joe” is solid, but doesn’t stray far enough away from the Hendrix version to really stand on its own.

The delightful Guy Davis delves into a traditional clawhammer banjo playing style on “Little Liza Jane”. “Five Hundred Roses” and “Ten Million Slaves” quake with Otis’ bluesy growl and electric banjo as well as his daughter Cassie’s thundering bass.

Otis Taylor Official Site

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Guy Davis: Skunkmello

Guy Davis is a blues musician, actor, director, writer, and son of actors Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee. Davis sings like a classic bluesman and plays harmonica, 4-string and 5-string banjos, and 6-string and 12-string guitars. According to the album’s liner notes, Skunkmello is named for a famous chicken thief who apparently founded the “Lazy Liars and Loafers Club” and was hanged around 1900. Davis includes other informative and often amusing tidbits with the lyrics of each song.

The deep bellow and trill of Guy’s voice is best heard on the upbeat “Natural Born Eas’ Man”, the euphemistic “The Chocolate Man”, and in the bluesy twang of “Po’ Boy, Great Long Ways From Home” and “Blackberry Ramble”.

My favourite tracks on the disc are “Going Down Slow”, “It Takes Love To Make A Home”, “Fonza Curry”, and “Shooting Star”. Davis grinds the blues on each of the songs in a way that you rarely hear these days.

The plucky “Shaky Pudding” features Guy’s clawhammer banjo picking and plays on the different connotations that the word “pudding” has on each side of the Atlantic. And you just have to hear “Skunkmello’s Dance Of The Chickens” to truly experience the fun.

The unusual blues-rap “Uncle Tom Is Dead (Milk ‘N’ Cookies Remix)” extols the virtues of blues music while addressing hip-hop controversy and social issues. Guy notes that the lyrics of the song – originally featured on his 2004 release Legacy – were altered because the original version didn’t get any radio play. I doubt the new censored version got much more air time than its source. This is the main reason that I think blogs and the internet are so important for music, because there are so many truly great artists in every genre that are being tragically neglected by traditional music outlets like radio.

You can hear more from the album at NPR.

Guy Davis Official Site
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