One of the masters of acoustic finger-style guitar in the Piedmont tradition, the legendary Reverend Gary Davis exerted considerable influence on a whole variety of musicians who had the opportunity to see him and perform. There has plenty of Gary Davis albums that are available including a Yazoo reissue of his early recordings (including some secular sides), albums on Smithsonian Folkways, Prestige Bluesville, and more. Shanachie has a marvelous 3-CD box of various live performances from the late fifties and early sixties and various anthologies contain examples of his spectacular holy blues.
Field Recorders Collective is an group of collectors who have recorded mostly old-time string-band music but have issued some cajun and creole recordings. In 2009 they released a CD of the music of Dink Roberts, a banjo player whose music as a link between the African-American traditions and Appalachian styles. Among the five releases for 2010 is one of Reverend Gary Davis, “1952 Wire Recordings from the Collection of John Cohen.” Cohen, who founded the New Lost City Ramblers with Mike Seeger & Tom Paley in 1958, was introduced to Davis at a 1950 Leadbelly concert and with his brother Mike, he made these wire recordings of Davis at Davis’ Harlem home in 1952. These recordings, accordingly, predate the 1953 tape recordings of Davis that have been issued on Smithsonian Folkways.
There will be few surprises among the songs or the performances of Davis on this recording which opens up with “I Am a True Vine” and concludes with “Twelve Gates to the City.” Among the highlights to these ears are “Please Don’t Drive Your Children Away” and his fervent rendition of “I’m Gonna Meet You At The Station,” both with plenty of his cleaned picked playing and hoarse shouted vocals. On a few tracks the spoken encouragement and vocals of McKinley Peeples are held as on the brief instrumental rendition of “Cocaine.” It is Peeples who takes the lead vocal and guitar on “I See the Sign of Judgement” where he salutes Gary Davis in his lyric, while the roots of Blind Boy Fuller and his musical followers are evident in “Tell Me, John,” with some brilliant picking here. Given the source of this material, the sound is acceptable although the treble end is a bit muffled. While there are other places to start with the music of Reverend Davis, this will be welcomed by his many fans and fans of fingerstyle guitar.
This can be obtained from Field Recorders’ Collective at their website, www.fieldrecorder.com. It is packaged in a mini-lp jacket with brief notes on Davis and the source of this disc.
I purchased this disc.