Thursday, December 14, 2017

Reverend Gary Davis - Pure Religion and Bad Company

I have ranted'n'raved about Rev. Gary Davis ever since I first discovered his fleet-fingered, solo acoustic fretwork that surpasses most other guitarists from any genre. Although he has often been classified as a blues player due to some of his earliest recordings, the Reverend considered himself a man of religion and refused to play secular music in front of an audience for a good portion of his career. But, his gospel music was all blues-influenced (or was it the other way around?), so it is a matter of splitting hairs, unless you are worried about your eternal soul.

His rough-hewn voice projects considerable emotion into his gospel numbers, while his playing brings awe to the listener. Most of the numbers here are religious, although he sneaks in tunes like "Candy Man" and "Cocaine Blues" from his younger days. "Pure Religion" opens, where he intones that "you must have the pure religion" before sermonizing in his song, with his guitar adding a second, counter-point voice to his. The instrumental, "Mountain Jack", shows off his expertise in a blues-based setting (although, since there are no lyrics, maybe it's considered ok), "Buck Dance" demonstrates many of his tricks'n'quick runs and then he continues his proselytizing in numbers like "Right Now", "Devil's Dream", "Runnin' to the Judgement", the mournful "Moon Goes Down" and many more. Davis' finger-pickin' technique gets a work out in "Hesitation Blues", "Seven Sisters" and the exuberant  "I Didn't Want to Join the Band" as well as in the semi-title cut sermon, "Bad Company". This CD has two songs that was previously unreleased, although with all of the subsequent compilations of Davis' work, I can't say that they are unique to this CD any long. In any case, "Time is Drawing Near" and "Crucifixion" are both fine numbers and easily equal to many of his other songs.

I am a huge fan of this man's incredible talent and output and his blending of gospel with acoustic blues and have not found any releases that were not well worthwhile. This one is certainly a great one, though!