Guy Davis comes from quite a talented gene pool. His father was Ossie Davis and his mother Ruby Dee, both talented, award-winning actors and Civil Rights activists. Guy has, in fact, done some acting. Most notably he won the 1993 “Keeping the Blues Alive” award for playing the lead in “Robert Johnson: Trick of the Devil” off Broadway. (Being presented the award in the presence of legendary bluesmen was the source of the above quote.) He is also a play write, author and composer.
In the midst of so much talent, it’s as a bluesman that Guy truly shines. As with many traditional blues artists, he has a passion for the music and the men who gave birth to it that is infectious, and a driving force in his life. Guy’s talent and dedication to the genre runs so deep that his own original songs sound like they were written by some of his own influences such as Blind Willie McTell, Skip James, Mississippi John Hurt, Elizabeth Cotton and Buddy Guy, to name just a few.
Guy, ably abetted by harmonica virtuoso Fabrizzio Poggi, proves this point by presenting a log of songs off his new album “Juba Dance”. Original songs such as the wonderful “Love Looks Good on You” stand up proudly next to Muddy Waters’s “My Eyes Keep Me In Trouble”. I also would have thought hat “Black Coffee” Guy’s tribute to John Lee Hooker, might have been a Hooker original if Guy hadn’t introduced it as his own song.
As with all good bluesmen, Guy knows that the blues is music that is meant to help people have a good time. This is especially apparent in songs like “Chocolate Man” and his tribute to harmonica legend Sonny Terry “Did You See My Baby?” He’s also a great story teller, filling in the time between songs with tales of his experiences and those of his grandparents, and how they relate to the music he so loves.
Guy Davis by himself would be proof that the Gods of the Blues were smiling down on Cedar Rapids. Add in Fabrizzio Poggi’s phenomenal harmonica playing and you have…well you have a legendary evening of music. It was the sort of performance that could, should have been produced as a video, it was that good.
Fabrizzio is a force of nature on the harmonica. Selecting 1, 2 or even 3 harps from his case full of instruments, his stylings would range form simple comping backround riffs to countermelodies that expertly complimented Guy’s singing and playing, to solos that left the audience gasping at the range of his ability. I’ve seen some guys play 2 harmonicas at once, and it has just been a gimmick. When Fabrizzio plays 2 instruments, it presents a set of harmonies that, if you closed your eyes, you might think were coming from an accordion rather than a master of the harmonica. He has a lot of fun playing, alternating some riffs with howls and shouts and laughter, and using hand gestures to let everyone know he is having the time of his life playing blues harmonica. Guy quipped that Fabrizzio’s wife had to pack his underwear for him because all he packed was harmonicas. Listening to him play, I can believe that to be the case.
Guy and Fabrizzio offered 2 long sets of solid blues. They played for a total of over 2 hours, with a short intermission. At the end of the concert, Guy’s sense of humor was evident when he told the audience that rather than him walking off the stage and then come back up for an encore, he would do his last number solo, then stay on stage while Fabrizzio came back up for the encore. Coming from Guy, that was truly funny rather than pretentious. I’d say one reason why Guy’s music is so great is because despite his talent and heritage, he has a lot of humble respect for the musicians who birthed and nurtured his favorite style of music.
And that is yet another reason why the Gods of the Blues smile down upon Guy Davis.