GNH Lumber-Outdoor Living-JUNE 2024

LOCAL MUSIC REVIEW: Guy Davis

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By LORNA CHEROT LITTLEWAY

Guy-Davis-Press-Photo1
Guy Davis / Photo contributed

SPORTING A SOFT-BRIMMED HAT, open neck shirt, floral patterned vest and slacks in warm tones of brown, maroon, blue and red, blues musician-songwriter-singer Guy Davis played a 2-set, 19-song concert before a sold out audience at the Spencertown Academy, Saturday, June 10. Add a turquoise encrusted leather wristband, the multi-talented Davis struck a handsome and amiable figure, seated between guitar and banjo.

Blues music incorporates a steady foot stomp and is ripe with imagery of motion – railroads, rivers, traveling from town to town, and women, both pretty and low down. Said Davis, “I look up to low down women. Without them I wouldn’t have a career.” He opened on electric guitar with his own composition, “Lime Town”:

I’m going to Lime Town

To see my pony run

I’ve got a black beauty

Going to have some fun.

Other virtues of the lady include hips “6 feet wide and a willingness to bring him his “running shoes.” The gravely voiced Davis followed with a ballad, “Got Your Letter in My Pocket” and a fun, funky blues song, “Baby Please Don’t Go.”

Davis, son of theater royalty Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee, sprinkled political commentary among his songs, referring to “#45” (former President Donald Trump), as “Cheeto” and “Orange Man.” Davis told a story about a White House bid to bridge the “racial divide” with a program of “cotton pickers on banjo” that brought him to the Oval Office. Davis said that he jumped on to the Resolute Desk to demonstrate his 3-finger style of play with the middle finger pointed up. Effort abandoned and story told, Davis then banjo picked “Shaky Pudding.”

Davis followed with a song that he wrote, “Watch Over Me,” which he would sing to his son to help him sleep. “Then he learned the song, would sing it to me and I’d fall asleep.”

Davis invited the audience to sing along on “Spoon Full” assigning them the lyrics “It’s Alright, It’s Alright” and the refrain “that Spoon that Spoon that Spoon Full.”

Davis’ blues is heavily influenced by folk and he offered his rendition of Bob Dylan’s “Just Like a Woman.” The second half of the program included Dylan’s “Lay Lady Lay.”

Davis revealed that his next song, “Kisses Sweeter Than Wine,” widely acknowledged Pete Seeger and Lee Hays of The Weavers as the writers; but that Lead Belly, though never credited, was also one of the writers. Lead Belly died two years before the song’s release in 1951.

Davis closed the first half of the program with a traditional blues song, “Riley Brown,” in the style of Sonny Terry with “a lot of whoopin’ an’ hollerin’” and again invited the audience to sing along. “Riley Brown” tells of an escaped prisoner eluding sheriffs’ hound dogs. The audience sang: “He long gone, he long gone, like a turkey through the corn.” The ditty was dedicated to #45.

Davis did not rest during the intermission but mingled with the audience.

The second half included more songs of motion, “61 Highway Is the Loneliest Road I Know;” women, “Mother Maybelle Better Butter Biscuit Babe,” “Low Down Women” who treated your poor son wrong and Muddy Waters’ “My Eyes Get Me in Trouble.”

“I love pretty women, Any woman can join my pack.” Add another song, whose title was not given, but included much shoulder rolling as Davis impersonated pretty women.

In an earlier interview with The Columbia Paper (6/1/23), Davis characterized some of his songs as political and social awareness. “Palestine Oh Palestine,” which Davis described as a “lament for Palestinians” was an example. The audience was asked to sing the lyrics a mother sings to her child: “Palestine Oh Palestine, Palestine Oh Palestine, Where have you gone? Where have you gone?” Later in the song an Israeli mother sings to her child: “Israel, Israel is our home.”
“It Was You” offered more commentary on #45. Davis’ impishly sings a long list of misdeeds interspersed with the refrain, “Well I Won’t Get in Trouble Cause I Told Them It Was You.” The audience lustily joined in the singing of the refrain.

Davis spoke about the pandemic and how the “isolation was nearly unbearable” yet spawned “Coffee With Kokomo,” a series of 400 half-hour radio podcasts over one year.

Davis, a two-time Grammy nominee, closed out the program with a little slide guitar and the song, “I’m Not Going Ta Marry or Settle Down.”

Davis’ presentation was part of the Spencertown Academy Arts Center’s Roots & Shoots concert series. Up next is the Emily Duff Band, Saturday, July 8, 8pm.

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