When Guy Davis plays the blues, he doesn’t want you to notice how much art is involved. “It takes work making a song that’s simple, and playful, and easy to do,” Davis says. “And I don’t want people to see that. I want to uplift and create something that causes delight. And I want some little eight-year-old kid in the front row to have big eyes and say, ‘Hey, I want to do that!’.”
Davis’ much-praised 1995 debut, Stomp Down the Rider on Red House Records, marked the arrival of a major talent, earning acclaim for his deft acoustic playing, his well-traveled voice and his literate, yet highly accessible songwriting. He’s barely rested since then, taking his music to television (the Conan O’Brien and David Letterman shows) and radio (A Prairie Home Companion, Mountain Stage, World Cafe, E-Town), as well as performing at theaters and festivals.
And this February 4, he will entertain audiences at Flushing Town Hall, with a concert and a family workshop at which he will discuss his career and how he was drawn to the blues, and then demonstrate some classic blues rhythms. Davis will lead attendees through an American music exploration of Delta blues, Piedmont blues, jazz, folk, and much more.
The family show begins at 1:15 PM. Tickets are $7/$4 Children, and free for members with tickets to 2:15 PM show. Tickets to the show are $13/$10 Members/$8 Children/$6 Member Children.
Tickets can be purchased at www.flushingtownhall.org or by calling (718) 463-7700 x222. Flushing Town Hall is accessible by car, bus, train and foot – located a short distance from the 7 train – at 137-35 Northern Blvd., in Flushing, Queens.
This season, Flushing Town Hall is opening its doors to teenagers – for FREE. Under the new “Teen Access Program”, all 13- to 19-year-old boys and girls (whether a member or not) will be welcomed to attend any performance for free. The program is designed to appeal to students and help foster a greater love in the arts and culture.
Davis’ parallel careers – as a musician, an author, a music teacher and a film, television and Broadway actor – mark Davis as a Renaissance man, yet the blues remain his first and greatest love. Growing up in a family of artists (his parents were Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis), he fell under the spell of Blind Willie McTell and Fats Waller at an early age. Guy’s one-man play, The Adventures of Fishy Waters: In Bed With the Blues, premiered Off-Broadway in the ‘90s and has since been released as a double CD.
He went on to star Off-Broadway as the legendary Robert Johnson in Robert Johnson: Trick The Devil, winning the Blues Foundation’s “Keeping the Blues Alive” award. He followed the footsteps of another blues legend when he joined the Broadway production of Finian’s Rainbow, playing the part originally done in 1947 by Sonny Terry. Along the way he cut nine acclaimed albums for the Red House label and three for his own label, Smokeydoke Records, and was nominated for nearly a dozen Blues Awards.
Davis’ new album, “Sonny & Brownie’s Last Train – A Look Back at Brownie McGhee and Sonny Terry” (M.C. Records, release date in March 2017), is an homage to these two hugely influential artists, not only on his career, but to thousands of musicians around the world. One such artist is the Italian harmonica ace, Fabrizio Poggi, who collaborated with and produced the recording.
Recorded in the summer of 2016 in Milan, the album features the original, title track song written by Guy Davis, songs by both Sonny and Brownie, as well as songs known to have been recorded and performed by the famed duo written by their contemporaries, such as Libba Cotton and Leadbelly.
Guy and Fabrizio have a relationship going back a decade in which they’ve performed together on tour in Europe and in the United States. In 2013 Fabrizio produced and played on Guy’s highly acclaimed recording, “Juba Dance”, which was number one on the Roots Music Charts for eight weeks. And ‘Fab’ also performs on Guy’s last album, “Kokomo Kidd”.
Continuing his mission to spread the blues around the world, Guy has lately been doing more teaching. “I’ve had beginning and intermediate students, and I try to give them enough of the basics that they can go into a jam session, and create more licks out of the ones they know. And I try to give them a bit of my philosophy. To my mind you can treat these songs as recombinant DNA, you can own it and you can create something new with it. And I didn’t sign any papers, but I can claim an ownership to the blues.”