Derek Davis – Resonator Blues

Resonator Blues” starts off Derek Davis’ third solo album with pure blues anchored around Davis’ fiery and fluid slide guitar playing. It has a traditional structure, but Davis phrases the lyrics in his own distinctive way and his slide playing balances fidelity to the form with obvious individuality.

Mississippi Mud” has a bit of a rock edge in the way it alternates approaches, pushing on the listeners only to pull back at key moments, and these dynamics are critical in making this performance work. I love the dirt and gravel in Davis’ voice, but he never lays it on too thick. It reeks of sincerity and he throws himself into the singing with obvious emotion.

The juxtaposition of “Jesus Set Me Free” and “Red Hot Lover” is one of the more interesting tandems on Resonator Blues. “Jesus Set Me Free” has a furious pace and is built around acoustic blues after some brief electric flash at the song’s opening. It comes along with pounding drums and even some hand claps.

Death Letter” has been recorded numerous times by many artists since the blues great Son House first made the tune nationally famous and Davis’ take on the classic track stands high among those many interpretations. It, naturally, relies a great deal on slide guitar, but the accompanying instruments do much more than hit their marks. His vocal is another highlight of the tune – he doesn’t treat these words lightly, but nor does he drown in histrionics that might make the song seem closer to parody than a real expression of grief.

The intense rhythms of “Whiskey and Water” are complemented by the dynamics Davis uses to make the song fly and the inclusion of harmonica. It isn’t the album’s only song featuring harmonica, but arguably the most effective use of the instrument you’ll hear on Resonator Blues. Davis, as well, really captures the fatalistic streak running through many classic blues tunes and does so without it seeming cookie cutter or corny in any way. To put it bluntly, you believe every word he sings.

Like “Death Letter”, “It Hurts Me Too” has enjoyed many fine covers over the years since its initial release by a virtual who’s who of top notch interpreters and guitarists. It is an electrified slaughterhouse in the hands of Derek Davis, dripping stinging heartache and desperation with each note, and Davis propels himself into the tune with the needed abandon to make you believe. I definitely did after a single listen.

The album’s conclusion, “Prison Train”, puts a big fat period on Resonator Blues with its mix of acoustic and electric, but the song’s electric second half is particularly bruising with its uptempo onrush and Davis’ impassioned vocal that focuses on every word. He is a lot of thing, but many of the songs on this album, including the finale, demonstrate that he has a strong streak of the storyteller in him as well. Resonator Blues is an album you can revisit again and again and, in my opinion, one of the best releases in 2019.

If you enjoyed a preview from Derek Davis’ Resonator Blues, check out his official website by clicking here. Give him a like on Facebook by clicking here. Pickup a copy of Resonator Blues on CD Baby by clicking here.

Eric Jarvis

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