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review Boo Boo Davis by Something Else

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.