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Lightnin' change when Lightnin' _want_ to change - Lightnin' Hopkins, to Jerry Ricks, Billy Gibbons etc etc

Author Topic: Reverend Gary Davis  (Read 10955 times)

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HardLuckChild

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Reverend Gary Davis
« on: March 15, 2005, 10:19:19 PM »
When I first became interested in the blues, I disliked Reverend Gary Davis. I thought that his lyrics and music were extremely repetitive. However, my tastes have matured and I've discovered that I love his voice and guitar playing. I'd like to buy a Davis album, but I want to avoid one that is solely religious material and is lyrically repetitive. Does anyone have an idea of which Davis album I should purchase? My friend has his Document disc, so let's exclude that one. The Demons & Angels box set looks to have a great balance of sacred and secular music, but I noticed that nobody wrote a review for it on Amazon.com. Is this a bad sign? Now that I know a bit more about guitar playing, I'm really blown away by his playing. I read online that Davis had a dislocated wrist (I think?) which allowed him to play in an amazing fashion.

Offline frankie

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Re: Reverend Gary Davis
« Reply #1 on: March 16, 2005, 05:23:56 AM »
The account I recall seemed to indicate that he had broken his wrist (the *right* wrist, iirc) after he moved to NYC (about 1942 or so) during a trip back south.  That would have been after his initial recordings, which were already pretty amazing.  Maybe he fell twice?  Another time when he was younger?  Not sure...  It's probably simplest to attribute his facility on the guitar to his talent, intelligence and dedication to the instrument.

You might like Blues & Ragtime on Shanachie - it's almost exclusively his secular music with only the stellar Children of Zion thrown in for good measure.  The Guitar and Banjo of Reverend Gary Davis might be a good choice for you since it's all secular and all instrumental.  On the other hand, his greatest artistic achievements are, in my opinion, his sacred music - you get the whole package there.  For that, you might try Harlem Street Singer, a wonderful album by any standard.  The CD If I Had My Way:  Early Home Recordings consists of recordings done by John Cohen in the 50's and has some wonderful moments.  I'm not sure that I'd suggest it to someone who hadn't heard Harlem Street Singer yet, but it is amazing music (some other singers are peppered throughout, though).  The Demons and Angels set has a lot of great music, but it's not any kind of "greatest hits" or anything along those lines, so you might be better off waiting to see if you warm up further to his sacred music and singing style before checking it out.

I'm a hardened Rev. Davis nut, think he's as beautiful a singer as Ray Charles and that *nobody* plays guitar better, so take my advice with that in mind...  My kids can recognize his music instantly!

Offline uncle bud

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Re: Reverend Gary Davis
« Reply #2 on: March 16, 2005, 06:51:50 AM »
Blues and Ragtime is definitely a must. It is a great compilation of RGD's secular material with stunning playing throughout and some lesser known gems, as well as classic instrumentals like Cincinnati Flow Rag, Twelve Sticks, Buck Dance. A no brainer in my opinion. But as Frank says, RGD is at his most inspired on the religious material and Harlem Street Singer is probably the pinnacle of his studio recordings. (I am not a religious person at all, not trying to promote that angle here.) There is a little bit of repetitiveness on this I guess, but not much. The Gospel, Blues and Street Songs album with Pink Anderson tracks doesn't give you a lot of Davis but what's there is pretty jaw-dropping. These together with the early recordings form some of the key reference points for study of Gary Davis, IMO.

For something slightly different and not necessarily representative, I really like the O Glory CD on Genes. It has some of my favorite versions of his songs like O Glory How Happy I Am, Let Us Get Together, and There's a Destruction in this Land.

I haven't warmed up to the Early Home Recordings disc of John Cohen material. Not sure why. There's certainly some fascinating stuff there, but I'd say it's for someone who already has a lot of Davis essentials.

The Demons and Angels set is great. If you become an RGD fan, you need to buy it. Frank isn't recommending it wholeheartedly out of modesty ;) since he did the excellent song transcriptions in it. It's all over the place but in a great way. Perhaps again it's for someone who has already got some other Davis material, but it sure covers a lot of the RGD spectrum and is a nice mix of secular and spiritual.

Offline frankie

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Re: Reverend Gary Davis
« Reply #3 on: March 16, 2005, 12:41:30 PM »
I haven't warmed up to the Early Home Recordings disc of John Cohen material. Not sure why. There's certainly some fascinating stuff there, but I'd say it's for someone who already has a lot of Davis essentials.

I don't disagree, but in the interest of speeding up the "warming up" process, check out the following songs specifically:

Twelve Gates to the City:  my favorite version of this song may very well be this one.  Listen to the repeated triplets underneath the vocal - amazing.  The understated vocal harmony is great, too and seems to really prod Davis on.  The tempo and execution are just perfect...  a slow-rocking groove somewhere between a prayer and a commandment.

He Knows How Much We Can Bear - beautiful, beautiful, beautiful - great chords, wonderfully sung.  In F.  Other recordings of this song include a double-time section, which I don't miss here.

A Friend Like Lonely Jesus - this one took a while to grow on me.  It's in F and has an insistent 12/8 feel.  This one is such a masterpiece of restraint.  The guitar break is probably what drew me into it - it seems to create it's own little world and pulls you right in.  Exquisitely crafted and executed, but still spontaneous sounding.

I Belong to the Band - this also might be my favorite recording of this song - he sounds very relaxed and the tempo is slower than his 1935 recordings (no surprise there, I guess) but his groove is deep. 

I'm struggling to remember the name of the other singer present on a few tracks - I want to say Kinney Peebles, but I'm not sure...  anyway, his songs are fun to listen to as well.  He's a good singer and has a lot of personality in his voice...  at any rate, give it a chance - maybe start with those four songs, or even just Twelve Gates to the City.  There's something magical going on there.

My theory is that the first track, If I Had My Way, is sufficiently different sounding from the recording most of us are (very very very) familiar with that it may have inadvertently turned me off from the recording as a whole initially.  Not that it's bad, just that the later recordings of it sound more developed - this earlier recording, to my ear, lacks some of the harmonic crunch that makes the later recordings so exciting - like the use of the G minor chord during the chorus, for instance.

It did take me a while to settle into its deeper sections, but it was worth the effort.

excellent song transcriptions in it.

Thanks, UB...  I did the best I could at the time...

Offline uncle bud

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Re: Reverend Gary Davis
« Reply #4 on: March 16, 2005, 06:09:14 PM »
I haven't warmed up to the Early Home Recordings disc of John Cohen material. Not sure why. There's certainly some fascinating stuff there, but I'd say it's for someone who already has a lot of Davis essentials.

I don't disagree, but in the interest of speeding up the "warming up" process, check out the following songs specifically:

Twelve Gates to the City:? my favorite version of this song may very well be this one.? Listen to the repeated triplets underneath the vocal - amazing.? The understated vocal harmony is great, too and seems to really prod Davis on.? The tempo and execution are just perfect...? a slow-rocking groove somewhere between a prayer and a commandment.

Yes, this slowed down version is very cool. A shame about the recording quality. The guitar is rather muffled.?

Quote
He Knows How Much We Can Bear - beautiful, beautiful, beautiful - great chords, wonderfully sung.? In F.? Other recordings of this song include a double-time section, which I don't miss here.

I agree, this is worth the price of admission alone. It is one of my "forgotten favorites" of the Rev (i.e., I forget how much I like it and where it's found on other recordings). It goes by the name We Are the Heavenly Father's Children on this disc. I would add a couple more "beautifuls" to your description. For those who object to Davis as a frenetic player with straining vocals, this is a good antidote. Astounding performance. Where is it on other discs? I can't find it!

Quote
A Friend Like Lonely Jesus - this one took a while to grow on me.? It's in F and has an insistent 12/8 feel.? This one is such a masterpiece of restraint.? The guitar break is probably what drew me into it - it seems to create it's own little world and pulls you right in.? Exquisitely crafted and executed, but still spontaneous sounding.

This is another reason to get this disc. It's an unusual style for Davis, it seems to me. Much more simple, chordal and gospel-y. RGD playing slow can really tear me up. You're right, the break is wonderful.

Quote
I Belong to the Band - this also might be my favorite recording of this song - he sounds very relaxed and the tempo is slower than his 1935 recordings (no surprise there, I guess) but his groove is deep.?

Again, I agree here. Serious groovosity on this one. The original is almost superhuman. This one is deeply human. Tremendous vocal. I think I prefer this one. Cool showy ending as well. If I could play one Rev. Davis tune...

Quote
I'm struggling to remember the name of the other singer present on a few tracks - I want to say Kinney Peebles, but I'm not sure...? anyway, his songs are fun to listen to as well.? He's a good singer and has a lot of personality in his voice...? at any rate, give it a chance - maybe start with those four songs, or even just Twelve Gates to the City.? There's something magical going on there.

Checking the liner notes says your memory is correct. I really like the tracks with Peebles. He's a very appealing singer as you say, and it's so unusual to hear Rev. Davis singing with someone else or backing someone. One of my favorites on the disc is The Uncloudy Day. This a great gospel tune somewhat in the style of Let Us Get Together, but more chordally complex, and features a great vocal duet from Peebles and RGD. Also interesting is He Stole Away, which RGD nuts will recognize as the Twelve Sticks guitar part, but again with duet vocals from Peebles and RGD! These duets are really cool and in a way make the disc for me. Got On My Traveling Shoes is also great, in a Samson and Delilah vein.

Quote
My theory is that the first track, If I Had My Way, is sufficiently different sounding from the recording most of us are (very very very) familiar with that it may have inadvertently turned me off from the recording as a whole initially.? Not that it's bad, just that the later recordings of it sound more developed - this earlier recording, to my ear, lacks some of the harmonic crunch that makes the later recordings so exciting - like the use of the G minor chord during the chorus, for instance.

It did take me a while to settle into its deeper sections, but it was worth the effort.

Yes, you're probably right. And I've sold it a bit short since I do like a good chunk of it a lot. Plus it's unusual. Some of the other familiar tunes are lesser versions IMO though, You Got to Move, There's a Destruction. Shine On Me is disappointing insofar as I'm a nut about Blind Willie Johnson's version, which is transcendent. Plus there's a couple marching band tunes which never really did it for me. Part of the problem is also - and I'll duck saying this - the sound. They're home recordings and very much sound like it. Unlike exclusively prewar-recorded artists, we're used to RGD in pretty good recordings. So all these things make this a disc for the person who already has a slew of RGD recordings, IMO.
« Last Edit: April 18, 2005, 02:14:48 PM by Johnm »

Offline frankie

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Re: Reverend Gary Davis
« Reply #5 on: March 17, 2005, 08:41:13 PM »
It goes by the name We Are the Heavenly Father's Children on this disc. I would add a couple more "beautifuls" to your description. For those who object to Davis as a frenetic player with straining vocals, this is a good antidote. Astounding performance. Where is it on other discs? I can't find it!

That's because it's going by the wrong name on this CD.  The title should be "He Knows How Much We Can Bear".  It was written in 1941 by Phyllis Hall and was a successful song for Roberta Martin.  On "Live and Kicking" it's listed as "How Much We Can Bear" and I have a cassette copy of a Rev. Gary Davis/Short Stuff Macon LP - I think it was a UK release - that has it listed as "He Knows Just How Much We Can Bear".  It might be easier to find if the name was at least consistent...


Offline uncle bud

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Re: Reverend Gary Davis
« Reply #6 on: March 17, 2005, 09:14:32 PM »
Live and Kicking was the one disc I didn't check, thinking, "oh it's not on that one."

I don't know whether it's true or not, but the story behind this disc (and others in the same series from Dave van Ronk and Sonny and Brownie) which was recorded in Montreal is that Michael Nerenberg, who recorded it here in 1967, needed some money 30 years later to repair his van. He went to the Justin Time label with the tapes and ta-da.

Nerenberg is not someone I've bumped into here, not that I'm totally connected. He mentions in his notes that of the many recordings he made of RGD, this is his favorite. I think I need to bump into this fellow....
« Last Edit: March 18, 2005, 07:18:14 AM by uncle bud »

Offline uncle bud

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Re: Reverend Gary Davis
« Reply #7 on: April 29, 2007, 08:34:56 PM »
I guess I?m not completely surprised by the opinions of people expressing varying degrees of dislike for the music of Rev. Gary Davis in the ?who-do-you-not-love? thread. I was going to post this there, but this post got way out of control ( :P) and I thought it might be best on its own. As a player who is regularly held up as the pinnacle of ragtime blues guitar achievement to all of us guitar nerds ? even if he?s really a gospel musician ? his overall style is not necessarily listener-friendly at times. His voice can be harsh and grating, even to fans like me. I?m always amazed whenever I see that comment of Davis?s about Lemon?s singing. If anyone can let out a blood-curdling yell, it?s the Rev. I?m surprised Van Ronk didn?t take the opportunity to playfully point that out, but he could holler pretty loud himself.

Some of RGD?s songs can be relentless, a combination of constant forward motion from the driving guitar parts and the raw vocal, often put out at the top of his range. I?m thinking for example of something like ?The Great Change in Me? from the early recordings. I think it?s a masterpiece but could understand how it might not be someone?s cup of tea. In fact, while they?re always listed as essential, the early recordings are definitely not what I?d start anybody on if I was charged with converting them to Davis. Rediscovery-era recordings also can feature a harsh vocal ? whether from some of the cheap, home recordings, as Rivers notes in the other thread, or from the delivery ? but they seem more approachable.

The ?right? records can help a lot, IMO, though what those might be is a matter of opinion. ?At Newport? is very listener-friendly, to my mind. His singing is great on it, and I think the Rev. generally flourishes in front of a real audience. The record has a tremendous version of Samson and Delilah, as well as great versions of I?m Going to Sit Down On the Banks of the River (listed as ?I Won?t Be Back No More? here) and You Got to Move (just a delight). It?s a bit of a ?hits? record, has 12 Sticks, Buck Dance, Death Don?t Have No Mercy. The new version of the CD has two extra tracks, although I kind of like the way the old version ended with I Will Do My Last Singing in This Land Somewhere (another wonderful performance).

But I have to say that if one is looking for emotive, Gary Davis is one of the most emotive and expressive singers I?ve ever heard. If one were to explore his entire repertoire (OK, so the naysayers aren?t about to commit to that ;) ), I think you?d find an enormous range of vocal styles: ferocious top-of-his-range singing, fiery sermons, comic deliveries, stark and hoarse stuff like on the ?Pure Religion and Bad Company? record, and fragile and deeply expressive as on some of his later recordings. Many times it works, sublimely ? sometimes it just doesn?t.

Just a few examples of the sublime from a record that some critics dismiss as a lesser work, ?O, Glory ? The Apostolic Studio Sessions?, his second-to-last (I think) studio record. (Sound on this one is great, BTW.)  Listen to ?Lo, I Be With You Always?, ?There?s a Destruction In This Land? and ?O, Glory?. ?Lo, I Be With You? has Larry Johnson on harp and is I think the best version of this song from Rev. Davis. Very bluesy, great singing, wonderful interplay between the two musicians. ?There?s a Destruction?? is a song that appears on a number of records but is perhaps at its most gentle here and just beautiful, IMO, whatever one thinks of the message. The last one, ?O, Glory?, is my favourite version of this truly great song, and I can?t listen to it without become quite emotional myself. It?s taken at a very relaxed pace and the singing is some of Davis?s most moving.

Some other examples of how deeply expressive Davis can be for me are ?I Heard the Angels Singing? from either the ?From Blues to Gospel? record or the ?Reverend Gary Davis? CD on Heritage (now unavailable, but some of the recordings appear on the Demons and Angels boxed set, including ?Angels Singing?, I believe).

I think to hear Davis at his expressive best, one has to listen to his religious music. I am not religious at all, but I am deeply moved by him when he is truly in the zone. His ragtime is dazzling, his blues is off-the-beaten path and wonderful, but his religious material to me is the most overwhelming, and is the most authentic expression of his genius. I could go on and on about my favourite Rev. Davis recordings (obviously!). I could also mention a slew of tunes that I don?t enjoy, from every record of him out there ? or in a number of cases, songs that I don?t appreciate yet. Some of the material has taken me years to come to the point where I suddenly decide, Wow, that?s just an amazing piece of music. ?Children of Zion? is just one that comes to mind in this respect.

I don?t think that if you don?t love his music that there?s something wrong with your ears or taste or anything. There are people I have immense respect for who have said they just don?t like his music, and that?s a perfectly legitimate response. Paul Rishell, for example, who is simply one of the best country blues players out there right now. But I would say to anyone on the fence, keep listening when you get the urge or opportunity to check Davis out, especially material you haven?t heard, because you never know. Frankly, I rank him with J.S. Bach and Louis Armstrong and Miles Davis (another problematic genius).

As for him belittling other players, I wonder if there is a bit too much generalizing going on, whether it?s here on Weenie or in the documented record we have of Rev. Davis?s opinions from Stefan Grossman, Bruce Bastin and others. I can think of three ?put-downs? off the top of my head: the Lemon comment, the comment about Fuller (perhaps rooted in some jealousy of Fuller?s substantial commercial success), and the ?I thought we were going to see a guitar player? comment, about whom I don?t know. We know he was vain about his own talents ? although one could make an argument that this was just being realistic ;). Yet at the same time we have him speaking highly of Blind Blake, Willie Walker and Lonnie Johnson.

I never met the Reverend unfortunately, but while the stories I?ve read certainly have some hair-raising moments ? ranging from general irascibility to waving guns around ? there?s also a huge generosity evident in the man?s teaching of so many young and almost exclusively white guitar enthusiasts, a group of people completely alien to his social and cultural background and experience in the South. Sure, he made a little money off them ($5 a lesson according to Roy Book Binder), but he regularly had them into his house, taught them as much as they could take in from his vast genius, the lessons could last an entire day, and he seems to have accommodated them much more than any of us would accommodate strangers.

Two incidental things worth reading in this respect are the liner notes to the Folkways CD ?If I Had My Way: Early Home Recordings? from John Cohen, and a story from Rolly Brown on the Reverend Gary Davis website at http://www.reverendgarydavis.com/stories.html. The Cohen notes show Davis taking in a guy who wasn?t even trying to learn guitar from him. The Rolly Brown story in particular is really worth reading in its entirety on the website ? as are the rest of the stories there ? but I?ll quote from it extensively here:

Quote
I had a Gibson "country western" model at this time, and I played a bit for him (at his request). He kindly said, "You'll be alright...you just keep on". He took the guitar from me, brought it up to about an inch away from his face, and said, "Hmmmmm....mahogany!" I guess he had that little bit of sight. Then we went off to his 2 hour workshop, where he sat in the student union basement and played for 3 hours straight. I was just amazed by his hands, and the music that came out of his guitar. There was counterpoint and melody and bass movement, but his left hand seemed always to be holding a chord. It totally transformed my vision of how the left hand should operate. To this day, that weekend probably did more for my guitar playing development than any other 48 hours in my 39 years of intensive guitar playing.

At the end of the afternoon, we had two hours to kill till we left for the airport. Reverend Davis had already been playing guitar all day long, but he turned toward me and asked, "Well, what do you want to learn?" I was dumbfounded by his generosity, but recovered quickly, and started naming tunes: Buck Dance, Slow Drag, Talk on The Corner, 12 Sticks,....he went through them all pretty patiently. I didn't ask questions because I figured he probably was just a great "ear" player, but when I had trouble following him on the downward chord sequence in Slow Drag, he finally, exasperated, said "C, Bb6, F with an A in the bass, and Ab!"...so much for my stereotypes about old illiterate blues guys...

After two hours of this, we took the Reverend to the airport and sent him off to New York. I think it was about a year later that he passed away. I envy those guys who got to study with him for years in New York, but I also value the brief time I spent with him, and I worked hard to make the most of it for a long time afterward.

I saw a lot of the old blues guys perform: Lightnin' Hopkins, Bukka White, Fred McDowell, Furry Lewis, Roosevelt Sykes, and others. None came close to Gary Davis, in my opinion. And none was more beloved. He was a man of great spirit, and he WAS the greatest.


« Last Edit: April 29, 2007, 08:52:59 PM by uncle bud »

Offline Johnm

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Re: Reverend Gary Davis
« Reply #8 on: April 29, 2007, 10:48:08 PM »
Thanks, Uncle Bud, for your thoughtful and balanced post on Rev. Davis.  You raise so many points that there are a lot of potential points of entry for reponse.  A couple of points that you raise, or that have been raised earlier, occur to me:
   * Re Rev. Davis's well-publicized lack of enthusiasm for the playing of other guitarists, it seems only fair to point out that the notion that musicians should be generous in their assessments of their fellow players' work is of pretty recent vintage.  Historically, it has been pretty much of a dog-eat-dog situation in the music profession, with musicians jealously guarding the aspects of their music that they felt most proud of and most distinctively their own, and at best, tolerating, or at worst, trashing the music of most of their peers.  In the '60s, when everyone became beautiful, this way of assessing the work of one's peers became unfashionable.  Rev. Davis was enough of the era that he came up in that he wasn't going to change at that point and start praising the work of players he didn't rate that highly.  I suspect that he wasn't really worse than most of the other musicians of his era in this regard.  Speaking ill of players who have lesser natural gifts though, smacks of a lack of grace, and I think this is the reason that Davis's comments (and you're right, there are not all that many) along these lines rub so many people the wrong way.
   * I think one of the reason that some people dig in their heels when it comes to acknowledging Davis's greatness and his musical achievements is that so many of his fans praise him intemperately, and seem deaf to his shortcomings.  For instance, I think that what Rev. Davis played was perfectly amazing, but I'm often not enthralled with how he played it.  Whether from playing on the street for years or some other reason, he never seemed to develop or care about developing a good tone on his instrument.  A good percentage of the time, he sounds fundamentally sloppy and crashy to me.  I think Blind Blake, Blind Lemon, Scrapper Blackwell, Lonnie Johnson, Josh White, and Snooks Eaglin, among others, all had a better tone on the guitar than did Rev. Davis, and generally did a better job of playing what they played than he did.
   * I agree with you that the essence of what Rev. Davis did is in his religious material, and his range within that is huge.  It is by no means an unvarying, monochromatic expression of "God is great", and examines every nuance of faith that can be imagined, I think.  My favorite is "He Knows How Much We Can Bear" (with a different title) on the recently released John Cohen recordings on Smithsonian Folkways.  It is just beautiful.  He goes so many different directions, though, and was really a striking composer in the style.
   * Fans love to rave about Rev. Davis's harmonic complexity and counterpoint, but his greatest genius to me has always seemed to be his rhythmic sense, which was equalled perhaps, but never surpassed.  Listen to his accompaniment for "Got On My Travelling Shoes" on the Smithsonian Folkways record.  It is die happy stuff, and nobody but Davis (so far) ever did or could do something like it.
   * Maybe Rev. Davis knew Rolly Brown's guitar was mahogany by smelling it. 

all best,
Johnm                   
« Last Edit: May 02, 2007, 09:46:17 AM by Johnm »

Offline outfidel

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Re: Reverend Gary Davis
« Reply #9 on: April 30, 2007, 08:30:15 AM »
Somewhere, I read of Rev Gary Davis putting down John Jackson by saying something like, "The only song I ever hear him play is 'John Henry'" . Whatever the exact quote, it seems unfair, since Jackson was a terrific interpreter of Blind Blake & Willie Walker, and he had a broad repertoire.

On the other hand, I assume RGD also admired Blind Willie Johnson, since he covered at least two of his songs (Samson & Delilah/If I Had My Way as well as Keep Your Lamp Trimmed And Burning).

To my ears, the best RGD recordings are the ones he did for Prestige/Bluesville in the early 60s: Harlem Street Singer, Have A Little Faith and Say No the Devil. The acoustics and sound quality are terrific -- e.g., listen to the shout of "woaah" at the 4:30 mark of "Crucifixion" off of Harlem Street Singer -- probably because they were recorded in the great state of New Jersey. :)
« Last Edit: April 30, 2007, 11:48:56 AM by outfidel »
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Offline Stuart

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Re: Reverend Gary Davis
« Reply #10 on: April 30, 2007, 08:54:48 AM »
-- probably because they were recorded in the great state of New Jersey. :)

Which can be either a blessing or a curse!  ;)

A while back there was an article in the paper about a person from Tibet who was a Tibetan Buddhist and was here to talk about his faith. He said that many people think of themselves as human beings who on occasion have a spiritual experience, and went on to say that perhaps they should think of themselves as spiritual beings who just happen to be having a human experience--something that I think about whenever I listen to Rev. Gary Davis--that he was a spiritual being who just happened to be having a human experience. 

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Reverend Gary Davis
« Reply #11 on: April 30, 2007, 10:49:37 AM »
RGD sure do court controversy and debate in these parts. >:D

He is the subject of a lengthy thread entitled Academic Writing On The Blues. Click the RGD tag at the foot of the page to find it.

tommersl

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Re: Reverend Gary Davis
« Reply #12 on: April 30, 2007, 02:37:44 PM »
Interesting thread. I think Van Ronk was playing a similar style to RGD, so I'm not surprised he easily shared RGD views about anything. But I'm not sure RGD actually attacked Lemon's skills, it seems to me it's just the way Van Ronk describes it more than RGD actually wanted to belittle Lemon judging from Van Ronk text.
« Last Edit: April 30, 2007, 02:40:04 PM by tommersl »

Offline outfidel

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Re: Reverend Gary Davis
« Reply #13 on: April 30, 2007, 03:41:13 PM »
Well in this instance, Van Ronk was disagreeing with  RGD, who was belittling BLJ:

"I remember one time I asked him about Blind Lemon Jefferson. Well Lemon was a little older than Gary but they were sort of contemporaries...I thought and still do think that Lemon was a very good guitarist. Gary disagreed (laughter). Gary started to play a very accurate pastiche of Lemon's Black Snake Moan, and Gary just opened his mouth and let out with this incredible blood curdling scream, and then he stops and says, 'Man, he couldn't have sung no louder if someone was cutting his throat.' "

Dave Van Ronk on Rev Gary Davis
as quoted in Robert Tilling's Oh, What A Beautiful City, p 29
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tommersl

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Re: Reverend Gary Davis
« Reply #14 on: April 30, 2007, 11:19:51 PM »
The text is weird. First we have to accept that Van Ronk had a thought on his mind that Lemon was a good guitarist and that  "Gary disagreed (laugher)". What does it mean? Maybe Van Ronk said to RGD that he thinks Lemon is a good guitarist, and RGD burst into laughing(?). After that, we are looking to read anything about Lemon's guitar skills, all we get is a comment about Lemon's vocals! That his vocals were not loud enough to RGD taste! As I consider RGD own vocals, I doubt theres a big surprise in such RGD's comment. So Lemon guitar was behind a not too loud vocals, Gary Davis had to never play instrumentals so I'd believe that for him calculating guitar skills is also by considering calculation of loudness of singing.

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