Blues Bytes

Pick Hit

June 2006

an associate
Order this CD today

Guy Davis
Red House

Guy Davis

Guy Davis is the son of well-known actors Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis. Raised in New York, his overlapping interest in music and acting surely enabled his destiny to blues of the rural south. After doing TV soap operas he then combined music and acting, appearing Off-Broadway as legendary Robert Johnson. At this point French TV asked Davis to travel to Mississippi to film a documentary about Johnson. Davis says that emotional experience gave him a connection between the blues and slavery that made him not only a student of the blues, but gave him permission to compose. Somewhere in the ‘90s, Guy Davis then wrote and performed his one-man show “In Bed with the Blues: Adventures of Fishy Waters,” where this reviewer first heard him.

Released April 4, 2006 on the Red House label, Skunkmello is the eighth album by Guy Davis (label founder Bob Feldman died 1-11-06 and receives dedication within). To paraphrase the album’s liner notes, some lies tell the truth, great liars include authors, and some storytellers’ fictions aren’t necessarily lies. Skunkmello, if you believe a self-proclaimed liar, was a chicken thief who was caught and hanged around 1900.

The music reeks of a current-day country blues style, not unlike Taj Mahal, who it turns out was an early influence of, and mentor to, Davis. The album’s instrumentation is delightfully minimal, all-acoustic (except for organ), and full of feeling, warmth, and interest. Davis has a very individual vocal, obviously playing his own harmonica. Initial listening suggests he plays most of the stringed instruments too (the credits confirm this), but there are additional mandolin, acoustic and electric guitar and banjo players. Accordion also adds to, rather than detracts from, an eventual swamp feeling.

The musicians have combined experience with people like Paul Butterfield, Van Morrison and the Saturday Night Live Band. Davis himself learned banjo at age eight from Pete Seeger, and has developed a style of both finger-picking and the use of slide on the 12-string guitar (pointing out that Willie McTell and Leo Kottke are among the rare few who have utilized this combination).

The CD contains 11originals and three covers. The often-performed “Goin’ Down Slow” here is my new favorite version and is dedicated to some recent late-greats: Ray Charles, Gatemouth Brown, Oscar Brown Jr., R.L. Burnside and Raful Neal. The inspiration of Davis’ “Chocolate Man” is obviously Mississippi John Hurt’s “Candy Man,” then Howlin’ Wolf and John Lee Hooker are echoed within a single track.

On the heartfelt “Blues In The Midnight Hour,” Davis deeply exclaims “No one knows my heartache…,” but I think we just may, if only because of the emotion achieved. “Hooking Bull At The Landing” identifies feelings of close parental ties and is indeed authored in part by Davis’ late father (the bull is a policeman, the hook is what he uses, and the landing is where the boxcar stopped).

Thematically, other tracks cover double-entendre, relationships and family, plus added treats like a chicken dance and proof that old-school Blues IS where Rap came from. This is the last track called “Uncle Tom Is Dead” (the “milk ‘n’ cookies” remix) with the original radio-unfriendly lyrics creatively blanked, relegating our imaginations back to work. The unedited version appeared on an earlier Davis album and in both cases Guy’s teenage son Martial is the other voice, representing Hip Hop.

What we really have here in still-young Guy Davis is nurtured spirituality, and wisdom earned from courage and seasoned experience. A grade of A+ especially for representing deep-rooted quality for our times. For more: or

---Tom Coulson
 Radio broadcaster/musician
 comments to


[Pick Hit][What's New][Surprise][Flashback][Feedback][Back Issues][Home Page]


The Blues Bytes URL... 
Revised: May 31, 2006 - Version 1.00
All contents Copyright © 2006, Blue Night Productions. All rights reserved.