Guy Davis ‘Kokomo Kidd’ (DixieFrog) 4/5

guy-davisBeing the son of a famous African-American actor-director father and actress-civil rights activist mother probably stands you in good stead for many things in life. However, becoming a blues musician still requires a good deal of individual investment in the craft and singer, composer and multi-instrumentalist Guy Davis has quietly charted his own path, and this latest offering marks his thirteenth album in total. His musical role model is Pete Seeger and this goes someway to explaining why the repertoire includes both songs from the 1920s and 1930s as well as more contemporary covers and originals. Bob Dylan is a natural frame of reference and Davis’ take on ‘Lay lady lay’ is both respectful and faithful to the original with just a slight country-folk emphasis. Much closer to home is the bittersweet ballad, ‘Wish I hadn’t stayed away so long’, that refers to the death of Davis’ mother, Ruby Dee. Female background vocal harmonies and Dylanesque harmonica make this song a little special. The title track has a definite southern blues feel and the guest appearance of Preservation Hall Jazz Band tuba player Ben Jaffe is a major factor for the down home flavour. Guy Davis has a slightly worn and lived in voice akin in some ways to that of a latter period Johnny Cash and. although recorded in New York, the music has a genuine authenticity to it. A more updated version of the electric blues therefore comes as a pleasant surprise on the Willie Dixon standard, ‘Little red rooster’, that many including the Rolling Stones have made famous and the inclusion of guest musician Charlie Musselwhite on harmonica on this subtle reading of the classic tune is the icing on the cake. A perennial dilemma for the male species is posed on, ‘Have you ever loved two women (but couldn’t make up your mind)’ and treated as an uptempo number complete with banjo and harmonica. Rounding off matters is a cover of Donovan’s ‘Wear your hair like heaven’ and the 1960s folk revival movement is conjured up to perfection. A fine album from a musician of some integrity.

Tim Stenhouse