Friday, November 12, 2010

Rev. Gary Davis - Heroes of the Blues

Rev. Gary Davis is another early bluesman that I had heard about for ages, but never heard his playing until I picked up this CD. I now understand why he is so highly regarded!

Davis is a remarkable acoustic guitar and banjo player who transverses a number of styles. He certainly has a blues direction, but also is very folky ("Whistlin' Blues" sounds like something David Bromberg would do), spiritual (plenty of gospel influences) and even ragtime-y.

This entire compilation is simply Davis and his guitar (or banjo) and yet every tune is incredibly full bodied. His voice can be vulnerable, powerful, humorous and even light hearted. His playing is always interesting, sometimes complex, sometimes speedy, but always just what works within the context of the song.

A lot of times I miss backing musicians when a performer plays solo, but the Reverend is consistently satisfying. I'm not sure when these cuts were recorded, but the sound is superb, as well. Definitely one of my favorite acoustic blues players.

PS - One of the highlights for me is a jumpin', up-tempo, gospel-tinged "You Got To Move" - essentially the same tune that Mississippi Fred McDowell did in the 60's as a slow, haunting slide-blues number that the Stones adopted on Sticky Fingers.