Chicago Blues Festival 1996
Photo © 1996 by Chuck Winans
Davis played both 12 and 6 string guitar, harmonica and used his slide with dazzling effectiveness. A major part of his show was the stories he told. Many served as effective introductions to his songs. Others were just an entertaining part of his performance. Like the "two-times" story were he talks about these mosquitoes that were sooooo big you had to hit them twice to kill them…once only made them mad! Of course being from Minnesota we knew exactly what he was talking about…the mosquito being our adopted "state bird".
He said he and his sister took piano lessons as a child -- he was the first to quit. He is self taught on the guitar and has been playing it for 25 years. Some of his musical influences include Fats Waller, Harry Belafonte (friend of family), Buddy Guy, Taj Majal, Blind Willie McTell, John Hurt, and Robert Johnson.
Some of the songs performed that night include, See Me When you Can, from his new Red House album Call Down The Thunder, a song about his grandmother who is 98. She has had 6 or 7 heart attacks over the years and complains about her arthritis - "some people can't be satisfied" he jokes. Walkin' Blues by Robert Johnson (from his first album Stomp Down Rider) has a great story introduction with guitar mimicking his voice and more wicked slide. Thanksgiving Day, a delightful instrumental, is about this holiday seen through the eyes of a young child being told to keep out of the way. A fun song, New Shoes was done at the end of the first set. This is a hand-clapping, foot-stomping, crowd rousing song that had everyone on their feet having a great time! Watch Over Me, comes close to being a blues lullaby. Guy said "my wife and I would sing it to our son at night to get him to go to sleep, but now he learned the words and he sings it and we go to sleep." Take Me Back Babe, a Mance Lipscomb song was done in a great Mississippi John Hurt style (with that steady alternating base and part of the melody that sounded like Richland Women Blues). This has to be one of my favorite songs from his first album. You just close you eyes and become absorbed in the music.
"The Road Is Calling", was the show stopper for me! Played with just his harp and guitar this song sounded even better live than on his outstanding recorded version (and is my favorite song on his second album). After the song ended my daughter looked over at me and said "what album is that song on?" She was impressed too! He even did a short walk about the audience at this point (with his acoustic guitar). The song has a loping, cowboy like bass rhythm that is totally captivating. It is one of those songs that gets in your head and won't let go after you hear it. Thanks for that one Guy! He finished out the night with a clean finger picking Georgia Rag by Willie McTell. Go out and get Call Down The Thunder if you don't already have this fine traditional acoustic blues album and be sure to catch him next time he comes to town.
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