Rev GARY DAVIS
Reverend Gary Davis is an incredible guitarist. This record is a collection of rags and ragtime songs. These tunes are not bound by one guitar style. Rev. Davis has perfected many techniques and styles that he freely incorporates into a song. The music ranges from simple fingerpicking patterns to complex linear and rhythmic counter-point techniques. It is interesting to hear his development of a theme from a basic melody to an intricate arrangement.
The music of Rev. Davis has been the inspiration for many bluesmen and guitarists. Blind Boy Fuller, Brownie McGhee, Larry Johnson, Ry Cooder, Dave Van Ronk, and Taj Mahal are only a few of the names that have been influenced by the “singing Reverend”.
This record is just the first in a series devoted to the songs, stories and instrumentals of Rev. Davis. All the selections were recorded over an eight year period, from 1962-1970. They were recorded at my home, in concerts, at church meetings, or at Rev. Davis’ house. I think that they finally capture some of the excitement that is so powerful in his playing. I have found many previous recordings of Rev. Davis very clinical. It is a serious mistake to place an artist like Rev. Davis in a studio for a few hours and hope to capture his “genius”. You need much more time. The ambience must be just right for an artist to play at his best. I think that these recordings capture this spirit.
The songs of this album as well as the future releases will serve as the basis for my guitar instruction book devoted to the styles of Rev. Davis. This book should hopefully be completed by 1972. It will be published by Robbins.
The sound reproduction for most of the selections presented here is of good quality. Several of the tunes were done in halls not ideally suited for recording master tapes. But when I have thought the performance exceptional I have felt the sacrifice in sound was justified.
CINCINNATI FLOW RAG: This has also been titled SLOW DRAG. This is an imitation of the old ragtime piano. It is reminiscent of Blind Blake though the guitar technique is quite different. The tune is played in the key of C. Sections of this sound similar to the second part of MAPLE LEAF RAG.
WEST COAST BLUES: This is the famous Blind Blake tune. Rev. Davis plays this on a six string banjo, I had been learning many rags from Rev. Davis when I decided to ask him about Blake’s playing. I didn’t realize that many of Blake’s instrumentals were part of his repertoire. I was quite amazed to hear this rendition. When asking Rev. Davis whether this style was hard he just shrugged his shoulders and said, “Why no, it’s all in the basic roll!”
BUCK RAG: This is an old turn of the century rag. It is played in the key of C.
ST. LOUIS TICKLE: This tune was very popular amongst New York guitarists in the mid-sixties. I asked Rev. Davis if he played this tune and he proceeded to play this version. It is interesting as it is basically one theme done in various ways. The variations are quite difficult. The over-all sound is very “old-timey”. Most other versions sound tame compared to this. Rev. Davis has an unique way of imitating a piano sound. Many guitarists try to imitate the right and left hand of the piano on the guitar. But Rev. Davis instead imitates the over-all sound and texture.
TWO STEP CANDYMAN: This is perhaps Rev. Davis’ most popular song. It has been done by scores of folk-singers. This is the two-step version. A sung version will appear on the forthcoming Rev. Davis album.
WALKIN’ DOG BLUES: This is an imitation of the blues piano playing of the twenties. It is a difficult piece of guitar playing that varies from counter-point lines to single string runs. It is played in the key of C.
ITALIEN RAG: This is a fascinating and humorous rag. It is played in the key of Am on a twelve string guitar. Rev. Davis always played this tongue in cheek.
C-RAG: This is an old piano rag played in the key of C.
WALTZ TIME CANDYMAN: This is another version of Candyman, this time played in ¾ rhythm. Another variation of this song appears on HOW TO PLAY BLUES GUITAR (Xtra 1113). This is a duet arranged by Rev. Davis. Rev. Davis also had several five-string banjo arrangements of this tune.
MAKE BELIEVE STUNT: This is a rag played in the key of A. The second section is an imitation of a piano playing the two step. This is one of Rev. Davis’ most exciting instrumentals. Some parts of this sound similar to MAPLE LEAF RAG. However, the chord structure and feel of MAKE BELIEVE STUNT is quite unique.
I hope that these pieces will give the listener an appreciation of the guitar talents of Rev. Gary Davis. There are many more interesting instrumentals in Rev. Davis’ repertoire, i.e. Soldier’s March and Honey, Get Your Towel Wet, and these will be appearing on future discs. The accompanying techniques and singing styles of Rev. Davis will be explored further in the next record: CHILDREN OF ZION.
I am very grateful to Annie Davis, Manny Greenhill and Nat Joseph for help in this project.
I hope you enjoy.
CINCINNATI FLOW RAG 4.39
WEST COAST BLUES 2.13
BUCK RAG 2.37
ST. LOUIS TICKLE 4.34
TWO STEP CANDYMAN 2.29
WALKIN’ DOG BLUES 5.09
ITALIEN RAG 3.16
WALTZ TIME CANDYMAN 1.53
MAKE BELIEVE STUNT 4.21
Produced by: STEFAN GROSSMAN
Production Mastering: Nic Kinsey, Livingston Studios
Cover design and photos by Hipgnosis
Art direction by Paul Leeves
THIS RECORD IS STEREO. It can be played with excellent results and without damage on most mono players provided they are fitted with a compatible or stereo cartridge wired for mono sound. If in doubt consult your dealer.
Manufactured and distributed by TRANSATLANTIC RECORDS
86 MARYLEBONE HIGH STREET, LONDON W1M 4AY