Boo Boo Davis “Tree Man” (Black & Tan B&T 045) Mississippi born and long-time Saint Louis based bluesman James “Boo Boo” Davis is one of the last to have sung the blues in the cotton fields, and his music is the real deal. For many years now he has been working with Dutch label Black & Tan – with label boss Jan Mittendorp on guitar and drummer John Gerritse. Sometimes they will go for a specific idea – say, showcasing Boo Boo’s soul side – but for this set the focus is firmly o producing a straight-forward, down home blues set. Some of these songs are slow-ish, brooding compositions in the vein of Howling Wolf (Davis’ voice certainly suits this kind of thing – led an ear to the title track, or ‘What’s The Matter With You Baby’), whilst ‘She Won’t Call Me On The Telephone’ is nicely up tempo and raucous, and ‘Bring My Baby Back Home’, with some slight soul tinges, is perhaps the smoothest number here – though it’s not that smooth! Boo Boo plays harp too on this set – he is not a virtuoso by any means, but he does the job perfectly well, and that comment goes for the whole album, no showboating or ego-tripping, just real blues the whole way.
It’s no exaggeration to state that Boo Boo Davis is one of the last of the authentic blues men. Born and raised in the heart of the Mississippi Delta during the 40s and 50s, James ‘Boo Boo’ Davis had been singing the blues since the age of five throughout a childhood that included working in the cotton fields and he spent a good deal of his early adult life toiling as a blues musician in the St. Louis area. But like his contemporary RL Burnside, Davis didn’t get discovered until he had already lived a full life. First touring Europe in 2000, he was soon afterwards picked up by Netherlands-based Black and Tan Records, and has been making award-winning records under that label while regularly performing all over Europe ever since. After a string of single releases of famous blues covers on KuvVer Records it’s now time again for Boo Boo to release a new and ‘all original’ album. Tree Man sports ten brand new songs and one new version from a song that was released earlier in 2002. Tree Man wasn’t recorded in a club, but it could have easily been. Captured live in the studio with no overdubs, the guys at Black and Tan understood that Davis’ music has to be rendered strictly on his own terms, performed the way he’s been performing for some sixty odd years. Even his usual stage salutation “thank you Dave” is captured at the end of a couple of performances, his own personal shout-out to God. “Dirt Road” is no-bullshit blues with Boo Boo filling the space between the verses with some hefty harmonica that gets going full bore on the solo break. The always-irresistible blues shuffle gets delivered on “Big House All To Myself #2” and the drums/baritone guitar groove that underpins “Stay Out All Night Long” is one funky, lean number as is the talking blues “Chocolate.” “She Won’t Call Me On The Telephone” is loud and raucous like punk rock but moves like early rock ‘n’ roll (which was, after all, derived straight from the blues), and Davis’ blues harp is a runaway freight train. That harp kicks off the first slow number of this set, “Oh Baby,” where Boo Boo’s moans like he means it. “Tree Man” was written with Howlin’ Wolf’s “Back Door Man” in mind, it seems, and Davis is even heard singing convincingly in Wolf’s signature menacing scowl. Though Davis is backed by only guitar (Jan Mittendorp) and drums (John Gerritse), sometimes this trio makes a sound that fills up a large room, like the rowdy “What The Blues Is All About” and the aforementioned “She Won’t Call Me On The Telephone.” The blues has been around for a long time and it has a lot of skilled practitioners. But sometimes, there’s no substitution for the blues played by someone who has lived that bluesman life for all of his nearly eighty years on Earth. Tree Man is as real as it gets.
El intérprete de armónica Boo Boo Davis es uno de los actuales músicos de blues que, probablemente, es de los más cercanos a las leyendas. Creció en Mississippi y por su casa pasaron artistas como John Lee Hooker y Elmore James, a quienes su padre acompañó en el escenario. “Tree Man” es el quinto disco de Davis para Black And Tan Records, una producción llena de vida, alegría, minimalismo y crudeza en sus canciones, dejando la sensación del mejor blues escuchado en esta época pues se nota que fluye por la sangre de quien lo interpreta. Aquí no hay elementos extras que embellezcan los temas, es sonido vivo con lo que se obtuvo de tomas únicas en el estudio de grabación. Encontramos blues estricto, blues lento, blues rápido, sonoridades tan viejas como el blues mismo, diciendo las cosas como son gracias a ese conocimiento que solo da la experiencia. Boo Boo Davis en la armónica, John Gerritse en la batería y Jan Mittendrop en la guitarra tocan sus instrumentos con las uñas sucias, desde el corazón, diciendo “esto es lo que hay”, expresión que se queda corta pues es blues puro.
James “Boo Boo” Davis is zo’n doorgewinterde blues man die het hartzeer van de Zuidelijke staten met zich meedraagt. 76 jaar jong en getekend door het leven trekt hij nog fel van leer op de mondharmonica. Zijn stemgeluid draagt de tekenen der jaren, en met zijn kompanen John Gerritse op drums en Jan Mittendorp op gitaar tourt hij ook nu weer door Europa. Boo Boo Davis is er geen man naar om uren in de studio door te brengen, al zijn opnames hebben die feel van “one take, this is what you get”. De afsluiter van deze cd is Im Getting Old en is een nummer zoals elk ander op deze cd, levendig met mondharmonica werk vol vuur. Uit niets blijkt “Im getting old”. Met zijn kompanen laat hij horen nog totaal niet oud te zijn en vol blues vuur te zitten. De cd opent met het op klassieke bluestonen geschreven Dirt Road. Met zijn oude raspende stem maar met een mondharmonica die klikt als pas geboren. De klasse schuilt in het mondharmonica werk. Vervolgens gaan de heren er eens goed voor zitten, op stoom gekomen blazen ze er met Big House By Myself #2 op en top bluesmuziek eruit. Hoewel het trio zonder bas speelt zit er wel een basloopje in; dat in Stay Out All Night Long door Boo Boo wordt ingevuld met een gehuil die doet denken aan de Amerikaanse prairies. Vol passie en vol vuur knalt Boo Boo Davis er met She Won’t Call Me On The Telephone er een straffe shuffle uit met harmonicawerk waarvan je denkt, waar haalt hij de adem vandaan. Na twee wat mindere tracks komt er een sterke fase op deze cd. Het drieluik met de titeltrack Tree Man, What The Blues Is All About, en het meeslepende Chocolate, vette loom meeslepende blues van een man die in zijn laatste song zingt ” I`m getting old”, maar daar is nog niets van te merken. Klasse bluesplaat.
They say that you can’t go far wrong with an old bluesman and it is equally true that an old bluesman can’t go far wrong and Boo Boo Davis duly doesn’t go far wrong with his latest album “Tree Man”. The album resonates with years of telling it like it is but without ever suggesting that his enthusiasm for the task in hand is on the wane. The songs are, as you might expect, traditional in aspect and content yet they don’t ever sound like they have been released from the prison that is time. Part of the reason for that might well be the raw nature of the recording. Without the polish of the computer to render everything perfect, it is up to the musicians present to set the groove and the tone with the groove here being your genuine steam train that it is isn’t going to stop anywhere else than at its allotted stations and Boo Boo Davis is the driver that gets that train going no matter how steep the incline. Blues fans know what they want and “Tree Man” is the kind of album that they will want. Boo Boo Davis might well stay within the lines of the old time blues genre, yet he manages, through sheer energy, to keep it all sounding fresh and that is both commendable and unusual these days. Best song on the album? The frenetic “She won’t Call Me On The Telephone”.
Bluesman Boo Boo Davis is pretty much the closest we now have to one of the originals. Born in Mississippi, he has actual experience of working the clubs of the Delta. His father, also a blues musician, played with the esteemed likes of John Lee Hooker and Elmore James and Boo Boo remembers such luminaries being around the house when he was young. The blues is in his DNA and this, his fifth album for Black and Tan Records, sees him on fine form, playing, as he has since 2008, in a stripped back trio format. It’s joyously blues…pure blues. Which is rare these days – no embellishments, no nods to anything remotely modern and, thankfully, no blues rock (which, if we’re brutally honest, is usually just rock with a token acoustic slide intro). Davis, although also a guitarist, is primarily a harp player and his distorted wailing heralds the arrival of lead track, ‘Dirt Road’. It’s minimal, gritty and totally authentic – there are shades of Muddy and RL Burnside to Davis’ vocals and the guitar has a nice, Stonesy feel, the band hitting a flawless, long practised groove. Groove. Groove is vital to this album. Songs are mostly frameworks, licks, jams, erm…grooves around which Davis adds buried-in-the-mix vocals and harp flourishes – usually ending with a lazy jam which, if freed from the confines of the studio, you expect would go on for several hours. Most of these riffs are as old as the blues itself but when they’re essayed this well – hey, who cares. There are 12 bar blues, slow blues, fast blues and subtle variations thereof. ‘Oh Baby’ (see above) has lonesome harp atop swampy guitar and muffled, metallic slide while ‘She Won’t Call Me On The Telephone’ hits the ground at runaway train momentum. Thunderous and abandoned, it’s 100% blues but as riotous as Jon Spencer or any avant garde NY noise terrorist, as relentless as prime Motorhead. ‘Bring My Baby Back Home’ is pure RnB, Brian Jones would have been in its thrall. There is also a definite Creedence delta swampiness to several tracks while John Lee Hooker returns in spirit with the dialogue led narrative of ‘Chocolate’. Final track ‘I’m Getting Old’ is taken at an ironically sprightly pace – a fearlessly bluesy take on mortality with added wah-wah, there’s no kicking of buckets yet for these dudes.This is a fine, rough edged, real blues album. It’s produced beautifully, recorded well with a genuine live-in-the-studio feel (with occasional chatter when songs end) and no new fangled trickery or knob twiddling (fnarr). It’s the blues folks, played from the heart with dirt under the fingernails. What you hear is what you get and long may we get blues of this quality and class. *drops the bullet mic
Following up the release of his new album BOO BOO DAVIS will be on the road in Europe from March 7 – 31. Below you find a list of dates and venues/cities.
March 7, Groningen (NL), Lola March 8, Lichtensteig (CH), Soul Kitchen Musicbar March 9, Oblarn (A), ku:L @ Lausbar March 10, Irschenberg (D), Dinzler March 11, Frankfurt (D), Das Bett March 12, Koln (D), Talkin Blues Revisited @ Urania Theater March 14, Bergen (NL), Taverne March 15, Bielefeld (D), Bielefelder Jazzclub March 16, Arnstadt (D), Rockjungfer March 17, Veghel (NL), CHV Noordkade March 21, Wattrelos (F), Blues en Mars 2019 March 22, Nijverdal (NL), Zinin March 23, Amen (NL), Cafe de Amer March 24, Zevenaar (NL), Filmhuis March 27, Assendelft (NL), De Verwachting March 28, Aachen (D), Musikbunker March 29, Kleinstaasdorf (A), Mojo Music Club March 30, Burghausen (D), Internationale Jazzwoche March 31, Roermond (NL), Heilige Cornelis
This single is a little appetizer for the upcoming Boo Boo Davis album. After a string of single releases of famous blues covers on KuvVer Recors it’s now time again for Boo Boo to release a new and ‘all original’ album. Like most of the previous recordings with Boo Boo we captured everything live in one room without any overdubs. Ten brand new songs and one new version from a song that was released earlier in 2002. The title of the upcoming album is TREE MAN and it will be out on Black and Tan Records later this month just before Boo Boo’s upcoming European tour in March 2019.