Saturday, May 05, 2007

Guy Davis: Legacy

I just can't seem to stay on top of this blog, can I?

In my defense, my ad-blocking program (admuncher) spontaniously decided the blogger editing tools were ads, and munched em. I thought that it was a problem at bloggers end for about a week, and by the time I figured out what the problem was, I was once again swamped with work.

Anyways, hopefully today's post will make up for it. This is another one of my favorite "contemporary" blues albums, and bluesmen.

The most interesting way to say you came by an artist is that you happen to see them perform at a local venue, and was so entranced you immediately became a fan for life. Or maybe you were talking to another artist, and they share this obscure performer with you. Or at least you are in a cafe, and happen to catch a tune on their playlist. As much as I wish I could say something like that, in this case it is a bit more embarassing. I was playing hookie from work, with local public access television playing in the background. Vicky Gaberau (a canadian daytime interviewer) was on, and it was a chance glance at the tv set that I saw a black man with a big hat sitting on a stool picking on a guitar. I immediately dived for the volume, but only raised it in time to catch the tale end of his performance of "Payday" by mississippi john hurt. Well, let me tell you, that was enough to make me a fan for life.

This absolutely stellar album kicks off with "Uncle Tom's Dead" (for those that don't know, Uncle Tom's Cabin was a book that pretty much kicked off the emancipation movement that caused the American Civil War wiki) While not exactly fitting with the rest of the album (an acoustic blues/rap fusion), Guy expresses the frustration that alot of black people have with the state of their community. People like him love his people, love his people, and see unlimited potential in what they can do, but are frustrated by the raging social diseases gripping the group as a whole. In this particular case, he is saying that the current culteral music (gangsta rap) gives nothing to the black people ("you try to be thugs, you glorifyin drugs, you oughta go back to your momma for hugs"), and that taking back the blues from white people is an important part of making things better. ("you think rappin is new, and it started with you? that blues is just for white boys to listen to? the blues is in your blood boy, you cant get away. the blues will be with you till your dying day.") While I do think there is (and alwas has been) a strong social justice message in rap music, for every Mos Def there will alwas be a Chamillionaire that overshadows everything he says.

From Uncle Toms Dead, it totally switches gears into the ragtime guitar of MJH with payday. This isn't just a good arrangement, it is a phenomenal arrangement. Guy has a bit of a rougher tone to his voice then MJH did, which automatically takes the song in a different direction, but as much of a master MJH was, what Guy does to this song makes it very hard to decide which is better. The banjo playing off the guitar is just delightful, and the penny whistle ups the emotional ante right at the end, leaving you completely floored, in that happy ragtime kinda way.

The rest of this album is (as I have said many times before), my favorite way of making albums. Taking standards and putting your touch on them, and mixing that with origional songs in the old styles. Guys songs stand out more then AYH (last post, big mammas door), but they are all extrordinarily well written, and beautifully played even though they don't sound like they were written 150 years ago.

If you are seriously into the blues, chances are you've heard of Alvin Hart (Big Mamma's Door made quite a splash), but Guy should still be new to you. This is by far my favorite of his albums, hopefully you guys will enjoy it as much as I have.

As for whats next, Im thinking either this wonderful Django Reinhardt tribute album I have (Gypsy Jazz), or some Antoine Dufour (modern acoustic fingerstyle) as I saw him last week and he was so incredably phenomenal I really want to talk about him a bit. I'll do my best to get something up within the week.

1 comment:

Michael said...

funny yet informative. thanks, jam on!