FEATURED ARTIST / S
|Rev. Gary Davis|
Blind / Rev. Gary Davis, vocal guitar
Includes one recording by Bull City Red (George Washington), vocal.
Genres: Guitar evangelist, Ragtime guitar, Gospel, Country blues, Blues guitar.
Informative booklet notes by Chris Smith.
From this album's booklet notes.
When Gary Davis made his first records in New York in 1935, he'd been a guitarist for many years; born in Laurens, SC in 1896, by 1904 he owned his own guitar and was playing for dances. By 1911, he was a member of Willie Walker's string band in Greenville. At some point, probably during his first marriage, which lasted from 1919 to 1924, Davis moved to North Carolina, and when he came to record, he was an associate of Blind Boy Fuller, who was also to make his debut on disc on this occasion.
Davis was a guitar genius; that much is obvious from the first notes of this CD. He'd taught Fuller a good deal, but Fuller, though an excellent player, never approached Davis's total command of the instrument. He was not to be ordained until 1937, and in 1935 he was still prepared, albeit uneasily, to sing blues; but he undoubtedly saw himself as a guitarist for God. In later years, he became a god for guitarists, many of whom were made uneasy by his intense fundamentalism, and tried to persuade themselves that Davis performed a non-existent "holy blues". When he did sing the blues, he was a fine and distinctive executant, bringing to the form a much more introspective, personal vocal delivery than the one he used for his religious music. In that area, his singing and preaching are those of a street evangelist, determined both to make himself heard over competing noise, and to attract potential converts by the sheer fervour of his performance. His ferocity seems to have been daunting even to black record buyers of the day, for his 1935 discs do not appear to have sold widely.
At some time not long after his arrival in New York, Davis cut the instrumental showpiece Civil War March, which was un-issued for many years. Later recordings of it were usually called "Soldier's Drill", but it's likely enough that it dates back, if not to the Civil War, then to the turn of the century when Davis was learning to play. In 1949, Davis made his last issued recordings for a black audience, using a wooden bodied guitar which had a softer sound than the metal bodied National resonator guitar that he'd used, in 1935.