Derek Davis releases new LP “Resonator Blues”
The third solo album from vocalist, songwriter, and guitarist Derek Davis, Resonator Blues, is the next step in a career that first achieved prominence with the emergence of the hard rock band Babylon A.D. It isn’t unheard of for presumably dyed in the wool hard rockers to display a stylistic wont for roots music; members of the band Neurosis, for instance, are releasing memorable efforts shorn of the high octane aural assault so often heard on their band’s albums. Davis doesn’t forgo raw electric muscle entirely for this album; there’s room under the blues tent for amplifiers turned up to 11 and tone so immediate it threatens to take your head off. Despite varying his line of attack between electric and acoustic instrumentation, Resonator Blues is an album guaranteed to grab you from the outset.
His slide guitar playing is one of the highlights for Resonator Blues. He goes in for electric and acoustic slide alike at various moments during the release; I cannot know for sure, but it sounds like Davis is using a steel slide for his guitar work. The title track opens the release with a delicious guitar vamp before transitioning into a well paced number completed by Davis’ down home vocal grit. His comfort with blues music is obvious and never forced.
Despite the presence of acoustic slide guitar in “Sweet Cream Cadillac”, the track recalls early rock music and definitely exists within a tradition. Songs about girls are probably the only thing more popular than songs about cars. The rollicking tone of the track carried me along from the first. “Mississippi Mud” is the album’s most recent single and certainly rides a biting blues sound from the first note now. It might seem a little too obvious to some listeners, but never so much that it lapses into cliché. Instead, it percolates with the same soul and gravitas we hear elsewhere on the album.
Outside of the slide playing at the song’s opening, “Jesus Set Me Free” relies more on scintillating acoustic guitar playing and an impassioned vocal that made a believer out of me. The simple drum beat laid down gives the song a muscular pulse from the moment it first emerges. “Death Letter”, a traditional blues tune, is in good hands with Derek Davis and he delivers such a good vocal that he owns a piece of this song forever after. John Mellencamp covered this song a number of years ago and I can safely say Davis’ treatment far outstrips it.
“It Hurts Me Too” drips blood, tears, and sweat. It has a ferocious sound and sounds like it was cut live on the floor rather than the parts recorded separately and that visceral quality makes it stand out more than many of the other fine songs on this release. Davis matches the musical intensity with equal vocal fury. Resonator Blues finishes up with “Prison Train”, a potent blend of acoustic blues and straight up electric fire that puts an exclamation point on this fine release. Give it a try; if you love electric guitar and blues, you will be far from disappointed.
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