Reverend Gary Davis: The Guitar and Banjo of Reverend Gary Davis
This disc sketches the broad dimensions of the songbook he cultivated over the years. What's most unusual is that he renders the tunes in an almost completely instrumental context. Vocal elements only surface as gruff asides on "Please Baby" and the closing "Can't Be Satisfied." Davis' technical facilities as an instrumentalist are noteworthy. The playing and the program itself would challenge many in the context of a Blindfold Test; the guitar tracks in particular could easily be mistaken as the product of a John Fahey or Steven Grossman project.
Davis deconstructs an old military band march on the lengthy "Soldier's Drill," opening with staccato strums and blending a sea shanty feel between skeletal chords that are in more common renditions the province of bugle. He strips away his signature "Candy Man" to bare essentials, but the tune becomes starkly beautiful in its dressed down guise. Hefting a banjo for several numbers, he revels in the harsher side of the instrument, picking out rhythmic clusters of edgy notes on backwoods fare like "Devil's Dream." His granular harmonica makes a sole appearance on the handpicked "Coon Hunt," a tried and true mouth harp standard. Davis may have stymied his initial chances to record in his youth, but he made up for the lapse in his healthy resurgence during the 1960s, and this album of instrumentals ranks among the finest in his latter day oeuvre.
A few interesting side notes. Rudy Van Gelder taped the session and it's fascinating to hear Davis' acoustic strings rendered in the sonically crisp environment of the legendary jazz recording engineer. Also, the original 1964 liner notes penned by AAJ's own Chris Albertson are included in the package.
Prestige on the web: http://www.fantasyjazz.com
Track Listing: Maple Leaf Rag/ Low Drag aka Cincinnati Flow Rag/ The Boy was Kissing the Girl (and Playing the Guitar at the Same Time)/ Candy Man/ United States March aka Soldier's Drill/ Devil's Dream/ The Coon Hunt/ Mister Jim aka Walkin' Dog Blues/ Please Baby/ Fast Fox Trot/ Can't Be Satisfied
Personnel: Gary Davis- guitar, banjo & harmonica. Recorded: March 2, 1964, Englewood Cliffs, NJ.
Record Label: Prestige Records