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Lawdy, Lawdy, Guy Davis is a Miracle!

Venue: One Longfellow Square, Portland, ME ~ March 2, 2012 ~

Mar 5, 2012
Kimmy Sophia Brown

Lawdy, lawdy, what an incredible experience it was to be in the presence of Guy Davis!  That man’s bones are made of music! Wearing a red shirt, jeans and cap, he picked up his twelve-string guitar and with finger picks and slide, commenced to play it like an otter in a waterfall. His voice was deep as a gravel road and his proficient hands twanged the strings like the reverberating bells of a mysterious church. First he played, “That’s No Way to Get Along”, by Reverend Robert Wilkins. From where I sat, the light fell across the defined cheekbones of his profile and he looked beautiful. I understood something of what Bonnie Raitt said about encountering the masculine essence of Howlin’ Wolf. Some masculine energy just “is”. Guy Davis was not posturing, he just was -- earthy, playful, and soulful from the depths of his DNA. He embodied the music in his body language, in every foot stomp and every growl. Even though he was raised in New York, son of esteemed actors Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee, he embodied the spirit of the sharecroppin’ blues men -- you could almost smell the mud on his boots. Although he told us that, “…the closest thing I got to pickin’ cotton was pickin’ my underwear up off the floor.”

Guy DavisHis second tune was “Saturday Blues” by Ishman Bracey. He quipped that being named Ishman was an understandable reason to run away from home at the age of fifteen! He made references to Tommy Johnson and the song, “Canned Heat”, about drinking the liquid from sterno cans during prohibition that ultimately caused blindness, insanity and alcoholism in many bluesmen.

He sang, “Chocolate Man” with an adorable demeanor, sayin', “I feel a dance comin’ on” and tossed his head from side to side, eyes up, with an expression like a little boy caught with his hand in the cookie jar.

“I’m the chocolate man, I’m the chocolate man
I’ve got chocolate kisses, get ‘em from me while you can”

He met Odetta as a child and later toured with and opened for her. He said that she remained a dear and sweet lifelong friend. When she was dying in the hospital he went to visit her, walking through the halls with his harmonica and guitar singing “Pay Day”. The hospital administrators were not happy with his spontaneous live concert, but he said that Odetta, who was hooked up to tubes and a dialysis machine, opened her eyes and bobbed her head and smiled.

He appeared as ‘Sunny’ in a recent revival of Finian’s Rainbow on Broadway with Christopher Fitzgerald. The part was a tribute to Sonny Terry, and featured an incredible foot stompin’ harmonica train song that he performed for us. He blew, howled, marched, snorted, held the harmonica with one hand, held it with two, and involved his entire body. In fact here’s a YouTube link of Guy playing harmonica for some elementary school children. Watch it, he’s incredible!

He sang “Sweetheart Like You”, written by Bob Dylan, whom he called America’s favorite skinny white boy. The chorus went, “What’s a sweetheart like you doing in a dump like this?” My eyes filled with tears at the sweet simplicity of the lyrics and the feeling of the song, which was kind of like a Tom Waits love song, delivered with a gruff, but oh so tender heart.

Then he did “Wake Up Mama”, by Blind Willie McTell and then some pieces from his original one man play, The Adventures of Fishy Waters: In Bed with the Blues. His face was full of light and his heart was light and his fingers were quick and light - wow, he was light from head to toe. I went home with my heart and soul all lit up with all the bee-yootiful music. Yow! I love you, Guy! Here's the link to his website so you can catch him live in your town or order CDs for your very own: Guy Davis's Website.

photo by Anike Robinson - Red House Records, 2009

For music lovers visiting Portland, Maine, I highly recommend
One Longfellow Square ~ "Portland's Premier Arts Venue"
Check them out at onelongfellowsquare.com.

Kimmy Sophia Brown has loved humor and music and freedom for as long as she can remember.She is especially passionate about the environment and caring for animals.

She writes the column "From the Back Porch" as well as reviews of music in her column "MusicViews". Her goal in her music reviews is to introduce music she loves to people who may not have heard that particular artist or CD. For information about how to submit a CD for review, click here.

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