Thursday, October 5, 2023 / 7:30 pm
6:00 pm for dinner service
Upstairs Lounge, Oak Bay Recreation Centre, 1975 Bee Street, Victoria, BC
Guy Davis is a two-time, back-to-back Grammy nominee for Best Traditional Blues, a musician, Actor, Author, and Songwriter. Guy uses a blend of Roots, Blues, Folk, Rock, Rap, Spoken Word, and World Music to comment on, and address the frustrations of social injustice, touching on historical events, and common life struggles. His background in theater is pronounced through the lyrical storytelling of songs “God’s Gonna Make Things Over” about the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, “Welcome to My World”, and “Got Your Letter In My Pocket”. His storytelling is sometimes painful, deep, and real, an earthy contrast to modern-day commercial music, meant to create thought, underlined by gentle tones from his guitar or banjo fingerpicking.
A self-taught “Renaissance Man”, he first heard the banjo at a summer camp run by John Seeger, the brother of the American Folk Musician, Pete Seeger, and soon after, asked his father for one.
His records, while terse and truthful, are softened by songs like “We All Need More Kindness In This World”, denoting lyrical inspiration from Pete Seeger’s “If I Had A Hammer”, then teased with lyrically strutting works nudged by Hip Hop and Honky Tonk, like “Kokomo Kidd”. The contrast between pieces provides a robust, balanced experience, while giving Guy and his audience a healthy outlet for frustration through song and dance.
When Guy Davis plays the blues, he doesn’t want you to notice how much art is involved. “It takes work making a song that’s simple, and playful, and easy to do,” he says. “And I don’t want people to see that. I want to uplift and create something that causes delight. And I want some little eight-year-old kid in the front row to have big eyes and say, ‘Hey, I want to do that!’.”
Davis’ much-praised 1995 debut, Stomp Down the Rider on Red House Records, marked the arrival of a major talent, earning acclaim for his deft acoustic playing, his well-traveled voice and his literate, yet highly accessible songwriting. He’s barely rested since then, taking his music to television (the Conan O’Brien and David Letterman shows) and radio (A Prairie Home Companion, Mountain Stage, World Cafe, E-Town), as well as performing at theaters and festivals. And he’s played the four corners of the world, with a recent tour taking him from the Equator to the Arctic Circle. He played the Ukraine in summer of 2014, just a week or so before the statues of Lenin were torn down. He even played for the visiting Queen of Denmark when he performed at a children’s home in Greenland.
“I feel like I’ve only hit three corners of the world, with a lot more to go,” he says. “I seek to communicate no matter where I go. When I play in non-English speaking countries I play more of the classics—Robert Johnson, Blind Willie McTell. And I may tell fewer stories, but sometimes I can get away with it because the words sound like music.” Above all he’s looking to bring people together through music. “With the world falling apart it’s up to all of us to be ambassadors and to spread the music everywhere we can. There’s nowhere that I don’t want to play.”
His parallel careers– as a musician, an author, a music teacher and a film, television and Broadway actor—mark Davis as a Renaissance man, yet the blues remain his first and greatest love. Growing up in a family of artists (his parents were Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis), he fell under the spell of Blind Willie McTell and Fats Waller at an early age. Guy’s one-man play, The Adventures of Fishy Waters: In Bed With the Blues, premiered Off-Broadway in the ’90s and has since been released as a double CD. He went on to star Off-Broadway as the legendary Robert Johnson in Robert Johnson: Trick The Devil, winning the Blues Foundation’s “Keeping the Blues Alive” award. He followed the footsteps of another blues legend when he joined the Broadway production of Finian’s Rainbow, playing the part originally done in 1947 by Sonny Terry. Along the way he cut nine acclaimed albums for the Red House label and three for his own label, Smokeydoke Records; and was nominated for nearly a dozen Blues Awards.
So it’s no wonder that Davis is reluctant to define himself simply as a bluesman. “To me, a bluesman is somebody who has to carry a knife or a gun and enter dangerous situations and sometimes fuel it with alcohol—That’s not who I am. I call myself a blues musician, and to me the blues is a broad title. I include some ragtime, I make a nod to New Orleans, and a nod to the fife and drum players. And I always include things that make you want to dance.”
We are extremely excited to have Guy Davis in Victoria for what will surely be an incredible evening of music!