Guy Davis – Kokomo Kidd
This new CD by Guy Davis recaptures the fierce style and the gritty voice of a performer that many consider as the leader of the New York acoustic blues scene since his old pal Eric Bibb left the Big Apple.
More relaxed than his previous disc 'Juba Dance', it features again Fabrizio Poggi and also Charlie Musselwhite (for a memorable cover of 'Little Red Rooster') and many others top notch sidemen.
1. Kokomo Kidd - 4:11 2. Wish I Hadn’t Stayed Away So Long - 5:55 3. Taking Just a Little Bit of Time - 3:54 4. She Just Wants to Be Loved - 6:26 5. Like Sonny Did - 4:08 6. Lay Lady Lay - 4:53 7. Little Red Rooster -6:36 8. Maybe I’ll Go - 3:01 9. Blackberry Kisses - 5:58 10. Have You Ever Loved Two Women (But Couldn’t Make Up Your Mind) - 4:08 11. Cool Drink of Water - 3:56 12. Bumblebee Blues - 4:57 13. Wear Your Love Like Heaven - 3:47
Guy Davis (vocals, guitars, banjo, harmonicas, keyboards, percussion) , Professor Louie (acoustic piano, Hammond organ) , John Platania (guitars) , Mark Murphy (bass, cello) , Chris James (mandolin, guitar) , Charles Musselwhite (harmonica on 7) , Fabrizio Poggi (harmonica on 10) , Ben Jaffe (tuba on 1) , David Helper (backing vocals) , Miss Marie Spinosa (backing vocals) , Audrey Martells (backing vocals) , Zhana Roiya (backing vocals)
1. www.keysandchords.com - 2015.10.22
New Yorker Guy Davis is de zoon van acteurs Ruby Dee en Ossie Davis. Eigenlijk is hij een bloedbroeder van Eric Bibb. Hun families waren in de jaren ‘50 en ‘60 nauw met elkaar betrokken in de Big Apple. In deze stad werd Davis dus geboren en hij raakte al snel in de ban van de oude verhalen die zijn grootouders hem vertelden over het landelijke zuiden. Met zijn ruige blues en donkere stem gaat hij met zijn muziek naar de essentie ervan. Guy bespeelt akoestische gitaren, mondharmonica en 5 string banjo. Guy Davis is dus een blues ambassadeur. Hij reist graag de wereld rond om zijn verhalen te verkondigen. En steeds komt hij terug thuis met heel wat nieuwe inspiraties die zich vertalen in nieuwe knappe songs. Zijn recent album is de opvolger van het succesvolle ‘Juba Dance’ uit 2013. Enkele weken geleden toerde Guy Davis nog door ons landje om zijn laatste release ‘Kokomo Kidd’ te promoten. Het album begint in zijn alom gekende Delta bluesstijl. Gewapend met zijn banjo en warme stem animeert Davis ons meteen in de titeltrack. In een nooit afhoudend tempo tokkelt Davis er vrolijk op los en werd hij klaarblijkelijk geïnspireerd door Sonny Terry. In nummers als ’Wish I Hadn’t A Little Bit Of Time’ en ‘Talking Just A Little Bit Of Time’ doet hij ons sterk terugdenken aan een bluesy Elliott Murphy. In het moderne ‘She Just Want To Loved’ komt de slide gitaar langzaam in de ban van het koor, de orgelarrangementen en de vioolstructuur.
De song ‘Like Sonny Did’ dateert eigenlijk uit 2009 en is een eerbetoon aan Sonny Terry. In Terry’s onnavolgbare stijl creëert Davis een naoorlogse sfeertje.
In Bob Dylan’s ‘Lay Lady Lay’ haalt Davis zich -samen met zijn mandoline en gitarist John Platania- heel wat jeugdherinneringen voor de geest. En dat doet hij eigenlijk ook met de Willie Dixon’ song ‘Little Red Rooster’, waar hij op zijn geheel eigen manier Howlin’ Wolf eert. Special guest Charlie Musselwhite is een meerwaarde voor de sound en staat samen met de slidegitaar en pianotunes in de spotlights.
In ‘Maybe I’ll Go’ en ‘Blackberry Kisses’ gaan we opnieuw terug naar de Delta. Davis’ uitdagende banjo en harpwerk is sterk aanwezig in ‘Have You Ever Loved Two Woman’. Het afsluitende ‘Wear Your Love Like Heaven’ is een nummer van Donovan. In de liner notes verwijst Davis naar de muzikale inspiratiebron Bob Marley. Professor Louie raakt met zijn Hammondorgel aardig in de band van deze reggae tunes. Wel, de cirkel is rond wat ons betreft. ’Kokomo Kidd’ is een heerlijk schijfje!
Philip Verhaege (5)
Guy Davis has obvious a deep love for the blues and countryblues. ‘Kokomo Kidd’ is a lovely enjoyable release!
Guy Davis: An Ambassador Of The Blues
When Guy Davis plays the blues, he doesn’t want you to notice how much art is involved. “It takes work making a song that’s simple, and playful, and easy to do,” he says. “And I don’t want people to see that. I want to uplift and create something that causes delight. And I want some little eight-year-old kid in the front row to have big eyes and say, ‘Hey, I want to do that!’.”
Davis’ much-praised 1995 debut, Stomp Down the Rider on Red House Records, marked the arrival of a major talent, earning acclaim for his deft acoustic playing, his well-traveled voice and his literate, yet highly accessible songwriting. He’s barely rested since then, taking his music to television (the Conan O’Brien and David Letterman shows) and radio (A Prairie Home Companion, Mountain Stage, World Cafe, E-Town), as well as performing at theaters and festivals. And he’s played the four corners of the world, with a recent tour taking him from the Equator to the Arctic Circle. He played the Ukraine in summer of 2014, just a week or so before the statues of Lenin were torn down. He even played for the visiting Queen of Denmark when he performed at a children’s home in Greenland.
“I feel like I’ve only hit three corners of the world, with a lot more to go,” he says. “I seek to communicate no matter where I go. When I play in non-English speaking countries I play more of the classics—Robert Johnson, Blind Willie McTell. And I may tell fewer stories, but sometimes I can get away with it because the words sound like music.” Above all he’s looking to bring people together through music. “With the world falling apart it’s up to all of us to be ambassadors and to spread the music everywhere we can. There’s nowhere that I don’t want to play.”
His parallel careers– as a musician, an author, a music teacher and a film, television and Broadway actor—mark Davis as a Renaissance man, yet the blues remain his first and greatest love. Growing up in a family of artists (his parents were Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis), he fell under the spell of Blind Willie McTell and Fats Waller at an early age. Guy’s one-man play, The Adventures of Fishy Waters: In Bed With the Blues, premiered Off-Broadway in the ‘90s and has since been released as a double CD. He went on to star Off-Broadway as the legendary Robert Johnson in Robert Johnson: Trick The Devil, winning the Blues Foundation’s “Keeping the Blues Alive” award. He followed the footsteps of another blues legend when he joined the Broadway production of Finian’s Rainbow, playing the part originally done in 1947 by Sonny Terry. Along the way he cut nine acclaimed albums for the Red House label and three for his own label, Smokeydoke Records; and was nominated for nearly a dozen Blues Awards.
So it’s no wonder that Davis is reluctant to define himself simply as a bluesman. “To me, a bluesman is somebody who has to carry a knife or a gun and enter dangerous situations and sometimes fuel it with alcohol—That’s not who I am. I call myself a blues musician, and to me the blues is a broad title. I include some ragtime, I make a nod to New Orleans, and a nod to the fife and drum players. And I always include things that make you want to dance.”
All that and more can be heard on Kokomo Kidd, Guy’s twelfth studio album and his follow-up to the stripped-down, critically acclaimed 2013 release “Juba dance”, produced in Italy by Fabrizio Poggi. As always he combines modern with traditional blues, the somber and the celebratory. And for him it represents a jump into new territory. “It’s the first time I’ve produced myself,” he points out. “I stepped up to the plate, put the cash on the barrelhead and said ‘Let’s make this happen.’ What I‘m showing here is a side of me that’s deep inside. It’s needing air and light, and here it comes!”
The rollicking title track, featuring Ben Jaffe of New Orleans’ Preservation Hall Jazz Band, might be called a short story that you can dance to, featuring a rascal character who starts as a bootlegger and winds up a Republican advisor. “It’s sort of a demented celebration of corruption,” Guy says. “The Kidd represents all the forces that operate on the margins of society. That song says something about who I am, because I just don’t follow blues musicians, even though they’re very dear to me. But another one of my influences is someone I’d consider America’s modern Shakespeare, and that’s Garrison Keillor.”
The song’s New Orleans connection harks back to a formative visit he made to the Crescent City in 1979, a trip that convinced him to follow his muse as a performer. “I was playing the streets and Al Jaffe [Preservation Hall founder and Ben’s father] came out and saw me. Not only did he take me inside to meet all the players, he gave me the official Preservation Hall uniform tie, which I have to this day. And I ran into [legendary jazz bassist] Milt Hinton, who’d been my professor at Hunter College. He saw me playing on the street and thought, great—I’d finally made something of myself!”
Another of Davis’ mentors, folk legend Pete Seeger, inspired a song of loss, “I Wish I Hadn’t Stayed Away So Long.” He explains, “I was on Pete’s last official tour in 2008, witnessing with my own eyes something I’d heard since I was a child. Folk music was the doorway that I came into the blues from. And I want people hearing the song to know that life is precious, and that the road is not always an easy place to be.”
Other songs cover the more familiar territory of love and sex—or in the case of the sly “Blackberry Kisses,” both at once. “God knows I’ve written plenty of double and even single entendres about the sexual side of love,” he notes. “But the kiss is something different, that’s what elevates and energizes you—and I wanted this to be very elevated and energized! And I don’t know a lot of blues songs that break into waltz time in the middle.”
The most surprising of the album’s four cover tunes has to be “Wear Your Love Like Heaven,” the slightly trippy Donovan hit from 1967. “I loved that song back when I was a kid, and I wasn’t even sure why—It wasn’t especially rhythmic, more on the acoustic psychedelic side of things. Growing up as an African-American, for me it was always about James Brown, soul music. So it comes from a more courageous part of myself to show how much I love that song. Same with the Bob Dylan song, ‘Lay Lady Lay’– There was a time when I wouldn’t have had the self-confidence to do a song like that.”
Closer to home is “Little Red Rooster,” the Willie Dixon classic first recorded by Howlin’ Wolf. The song teams Davis with another old friend, harmonica ace Charlie Musselwhite. “I play the harp myself when I do that one live, but Charlie brings something special to it. In his blood he feels the harmonica and its sound, just as they did in the days of Little Walter and Howlin’ Wolf.”
Continuing his mission to spread the blues around the world, Guy has lately been doing more teaching. “I’ve had beginning and intermediate students, and I try to give them enough of the basics that they can go into a jam session, and create more licks out of the ones they know. And I try to give them a bit of my philosophy. To my mind you can treat these songs as recombinant DNA, you can own it and you can create something new with it. And I didn’t sign any papers, but I can claim an ownership to the blues.”
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