Guy Davis brings his award winning blues and stories to Mainstay in Rock Hall, MD on Saturday June 9 at 8:00 p.m. Admission is $15. For information and reservations call 410-639-9133. Information is also available at the Mainstay’s website
Like the best early bluesmen, Guy Davis is, at heart, a storyteller. He is a master at setting intimate, richly nuanced tales to a stomping acoustic blues backing. He is a singer and guitarist in the rural mold of Robert Johnson or Mississippi John Hurt. One reviewer said his voice is “like Howlin’ Wolf dipped in honey.” In addition to guitar, he accompanies his songs and tales on the harmonica, mandolin, banjo, and accordion.
After a string of critically acclaimed albums on Red House Records, the most recent being 2009’s Sweetheart Like You, Guy Davis’ latest release is his first self-released recording project since 1995, a 2 CD audio version of his acclaimed one-man play The Adventures of Fishy Waters: In Bed with the Blues.
As a singer, composer, actor, director, and writer, Guy Davis has dedicated himself to reviving the traditions of acoustic blues and sharing them through a seamless combination of definitive blues material, African-American stories, and his own original songs, stories, and performance pieces.
When asked during a recent interview on NPR about the creation of Fishy, the hobo bluesman in the play who also comes to life in his concerts, Davis said, “Let’s just say he comes from my need to release my inner Garrison Keillor. Fishy Waters reflects the moments in my life when I’ve been the most stimulated, when I’ve been in front of people who told stories, and … you could see it right in front of your eyes as it was happening. That means they’re using just the right words.”
“I was prompted by people like Taj Mahal many years ago to listen to the old-style blues. And from Taj I got to hear people like Mississippi John Hurt and Rev. Gary Davis and Robert Johnson and, you know, so many other names. And I found the people who played this sound that felt familiar to my bones already.”
The routes, and roots, of his blues are as diverse as the music form itself. His influences run from the great blues musicians like Blind Willie McTell (and his way of storytelling), Skip James, Manse Lipscomb, Mississippi John Hurt, Elizabeth Cotton and Taj Mahal to writers and storytellers like Zora Neale Hurston, Garrison Keillor, and the late Laura Davis (his grandmother who died at age 105).
Though raised in the New York City area, he grew up hearing accounts of life in the rural south from his parents, the actors Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee and especially his grandparents. These tales made their way into his own stories and songs. Davis taught himself the guitar (never having the patience to take formal lessons) and learned by listening to and watching other musicians. One night on a train from Boston to New York he picked up finger picking from a nine-fingered guitar player.
Throughout his life, Davis has had overlapping interests in music and acting. Early acting roles included a lead role in the film “Beat Street” opposite Rae Dawn Chong and on television as ‘Dr. Josh Hall’ on “One Life to Live”. Eventually, Davis had the opportunity to combine music and acting on the stage. He made his Broadway musical debut in 1991 in the Zora Neale Hurston/Langston Hughes collaboration “Mulebone”, which featured the music of Taj Mahal.
He performed Off-Broadway as legendary blues player Robert Johnson in “Robert Johnson: Trick the Devil” for which he received rave reviews and became the 1993 winner of the Blues Foundation’s “Keeping the Blues Alive Award”. Recently, he was approached by producers at New York’s City Center to recreate the role made famous by blues legend, Sonny Terry in the Broadway production of “Finian’s Rainbow” for a short run as part of their Encore Series in NYC.
His one-man show “In Bed with the Blues: The Adventures of Fishy Waters”, made its Off-Broadway debut in 1994 receiving critical praise from the New York Times and the Village Voice at the time. The show will be playing Lincoln Center this summer.
Davis also performed in a theater piece with his late parents, actors/writers Ruby Dee and the late Ossie Davis, entitled “Two Hah Hahs and a Homeboy”, staged at the Crossroads Theatre in New Brunswick, NJ in the spring of 1995. The show combined material written by Davis and his parents, with music, African American Folklore and history, as well as performance pieces by Hurston and Hughes. Of Davis’ performance, one reviewer observed that his style and writing “sounds so deeply drenched in lost black traditions that you feel that they must predate him. But no, they don’t. He created them.”
In addition to taking “Fishy” to Lincoln Center this summer, Davis’ busy schedule also includes concert halls and festivals across the country.
The Mainstay (Home of Musical Magic) is the friendly informal storefront performing arts center on Rock Hall’s old time Main Street. It is a 501(c)(3), non profit dedicated to the arts, serving Rock Hall, MD and the surrounding region. It is committed to presenting local, regional and national level talent, at a reasonable price, in an almost perfect acoustic setting. Wine, beer, sodas and snacks are available at the bar.
The Mainstay is supported by ticket sales, fundraising including donations from friends and audience members and an operating grant from the Maryland State Arts Council.
For information and reservations call the Mainstay at 410-639-9133. More information is also available at the Mainstay’s website.
Upcoming Mainstay performances include:
June 16 Red Mountain (free outdoor concert)
Wed. June 20 Bob Seeley & Daryl Davis
June 23 Red June
June 29 Byron Stripling with the Chuck Redd Quartet
July 6 The Seldom Scene