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Review: Reverend Gary Davis, At Home And Church 1962-1967

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Reverend Gary Davis
At Home And Church 1962-1967
Stefan Grossman’s Guitar Workshop

Nearly 4 decades after helping to create the East Coast school of ragtime guitar, as one of the prime purveyors of Piedmont country blues, South Carolina-born Gary Davis (1896-1972) continued to spin a soulful blend of blues, rags, Tin Pan Alley pop, folk songs, and, after converting to Christianity, being ordained as a Baptist minister, and adding “Reverend” to his name, gospel and spiritual tunes.

Recorded by Stefan Grossman, one of his students, the 49 tunes on 3-CD set, “At Home And Church 1962-1967” reflect the full spectrum of Davis’s musical vision. On the first 2 discs, recorded at his tenement apartment in the Bronx, NY, Davis applies his distinctive acoustic guitar fingerpicking and raspy voice to a mix of secular songs—“Sally, Where’d You Get Your Liquor From”; the pre-Depression ditty, “Save Up Your Money, John D. Rockefeller Put The Panic On”; and his two best-known compositions, “Hesitation Blues” and “Candyman”—as well as sacred tunes. Four different versions of “Candyman” are included. One is played on a claw hammering 5-string banjo, one as a two-step, one as a waltz, and finally the familiar 4/4.

During a nearly 10-minute discussion, Davis shares memories of Blind Boy Fuller, who he had mentored as street musicians in Durham, North Carolina.

The third disc captures Davis in his role as a minister, sermonizing and leading spiritual tunes at his Harlem storefront church and during a gospel workshop at the Mariposa Folk Festival.

—Craig Harris (Chicopee, MA)

© 2010 DriftwoodMagazine.com, All rights reserved.

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