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Guy Davis: Blues is your Legacy

Posted by January 19th, 2005 No Comments » Interview – Guy Davis
By Kinney Lewis isn’t known for its work in the blues field, but it is known for good taste in a fairly wide variety of music. I will be up front that I am not an enormous “modern”blues fan, nor do I pretend to know much about the scene, but as someone that has played guitar for most of my life, I have listened to a good chunk of the blues and I can certainly appreciate and respect the foundation it laid for a lot of the music that followed it and ripped it off.

Before I got the promo pack, I had never heard of Guy Davis. Guy Davis (son of actors/writers Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee) is an accomplished acoustic blues musician. He recently put out Legacy” his 7th offering on Red House Records from St. Paul, MN. With seven albums and almost a decade on the same label, he must be doing something right.

The album opens with the playful track “Uncle Tom’s Dead”, a song where the author argues with his son Martial the about virtues and relevancy of the blues.

Martial: “Hip hop poetry, that’s what’s happening. Blues is the bucket that I use for crapping in.”
Davis: “Wait a minute junior, you’re talking kind of fast, you’re ’bout to make something whup your ass. You’re talking out your head, to you it’s all a mystery. Blues is your legacy, you don’t know history.”

The album continues with a well-recorded pack of flavorful songs that include arrangements with drums, dirty harmonica riffs, an upright bass and some banjo licks. The album wanders comfortably through a hundred years of African-American music: variations of delta blues, folk, soul, and a dash of R&B. In preparation for his two-day stint at Jazz Alley here in Seattle, I spoke with Davis from his home in the Fordham area of the Bronx. How long have you been doing this “professionally?”
Guy Davis: About 13 years professionally and a bunch of years before that in other capacities.

NM: How is the blues scene these days?
GD: Still an endangered species. People need to hear about it. They need to understand that people came from miles and miles by horse and wagon to see Ma Rainey. There is a lot of power in blues music. Just a man and a guitar can be a very powerful thing.

NM: What inspires your music?
GD: Anything with a little drama in it. I like music that melts your heart.

NM: How would you describe what you’re trying to do with your music to someone?
GD: I like to play blues the way it was played a hundred years ago, like Blind Lemon Jefferson. Raw. Powerful. Emotional. I throw in some fancy finger picking for folks too cause they like that. I’ve got plenty of riffs.

NM: Who else do you like in the blues scene these days?
GD: On the electric side I like a guy named Kenny Neal, he’s a second-generation bluesman out of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Joe Lewis Walker is good. He’s fried in grease – thick as shortening. On the acoustic side Eric Bibb, who is the son of folk singer Leon Bibb. Then there are folks like Corey Harris, Alvin Youngblood Heart, and a preacher/bluesman out of Detroit named Robert Jones.

NM: How’s the new album been doing?
GD: I’m not really focused on the sales, but I just did a three-day tour and sold a good wad.

NM: Stopping anywhere after Seattle?
GD: I’ll be heading down to Eugene and Ashland after Seattle.

NM: Thanks for speaking with us. I’m looking forward to the show.
GD: Thank you.

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