The Second Concert in the Centre 64 Spring Series – Guy Davis – Blues Maestro: Tuesday April 11, 2015, 8pm.
Guy Davis is a musician, composer, actor, director, writer and more importantly a blues man. And as such he is a bit of an anachronism, a man outside his time. The classic blues era was in the the 1920s, 30s and 40s. By the late forties black Americans were abandoning their rural roots and moving to the cities for better jobs and better lives and the blues was slowly transitioning to rhythm and blues and eventually rock and roll. At about that same time the classic blues was discovered an appropriated by “rich” white kids (working class and / or college students). The classic example of the cultural take over by white youth is the classic blues performed by the likes of John Hammond and the transformation of the music by the Rolling Stones and The Beatles generation. The Blues were no longer the cultural lifeblood of the black community. Black musicians were switching their allegiance to the urban sounds of Soul Music, Hip-Hop and Rap. There is an interesting little interlude in the documentary about the Alabama recording studio Muscle Shoals where the soul singer Wilson Picket was looking out the window of the studio between sessions when he asked “Is that what I think it is?” He was looking at a cotton field and as a young urban black he had never seen a cotton field. That was a far cry from his ancestors experiences. I think that says it all. There was no longer a direct connection with the rural experiences of the classic blues. Guy Davis should have been part of that disconnect but that is not how it turned out.
Guy Davis is an urban black raised in a middle-class New York suburb and is one of the few blacks of his generation to make a connection with the rural blues tradition. The only other black musicians of his generation that I know of to have the connection is Taj Mahal, Keb Mo’, Eric Bib and more recently the Negro String Band The Carolina Chocolate Drops. In his performances Guy constantly revisits the rural traditions of previous generations. In doing so what he delivers is not a pale imitation of what it might have been but rather a re-interpretation and re-invention of the magnificent strengths of this past tradition. To do this he has an authentic voice and the instrumental chops on guitars and harmonica to make everybody sit up and listen. His strong finger picking with metal picks and slide on the vintage Gibson 12-string guitar and the old Silvertone Arch-top are rock solid. The tuning he uses on the 12-string is an open C (C G C E G C) and it brings to mind the classic 12-string sounds that you are unlikely to hear in this day and age. Most modern players stick to the standard guitar tuning of E A D G B E that sounds, at best, an anemic shadow of the classic sound. So once again Centre 64 has come up with another winner for their spring concert series. There was lots of classic blues, instrumentals, original songs, audience participation and humor. My pick of the night was Guy’s re-interpretation of Blind Willie McTell’s classic Statesboro Blues. It a song that has seen the light of day many, many times but Guy’s version had a freshness that lifted it to a new level. Here are some images from the evening:
The organizing committee would like to thank the following sponsors and volunteers: The Burrito Grill, Mountain Spirit Resort, “The Bulletin”, Christine, Irma, Ray (for sound and lights) and Rod Wilson (photography). The MC was Keith Nicholas.