Margaret Davis releases breathtaking Single
Margaret Davis’ “Too Marvelous for Words”, written by Richard Whiting and Johnny Mercer, is a long time popular song standard she covers to great effect. Davis does not perform literal covers of such material. Her classical training as a harpist puts a new spin on venerable songs thanks to her artful re-arranging of the song for her chosen instrument. The harp playing never seems out of place. Davis maintains a dialogue of sorts between her harp playing and vocals throughout “Too Marvelous for Words” – the harp playing underlines her vocals with quicksilver melodic touches akin to a gentle rain falling around you while the song plays.
The performance is stripped down, but guest trumpet player Jonathan Shadle makes important contributions with his playing. The trumpet never takes a lead role in the performance and instead spends the song’s duration punctuating Davis’ harp work and vocals. It lends a slight late night vibe to the song after you’ve had a few cocktails, but there’s nothing woozy about it, just an elevated glow. The trumpet helps the blue flame in the song’s heart burn brighter than it otherwise might.
I am taken with her vocals because of how well they mix ethereal gracefulness with a mischievous smile. There is a certain amount of seductiveness defining her vocal, but it never cheapens the performance. It’s a mature sexuality, played light, and never too obvious. Her vocal phrasing is careful and considered without ever draining life from the performance; she gets under the song’s skin and owns it as her own while still paying respect to the original and capturing a significant portion of its spirit.
The production doesn’t have a broad mandate in the sense it must juggle multiple instruments in the mix, but nonetheless does a fine job of framing the track in the best possible light. Each of the three instruments featured in the track, her voice, harp, and Shadle’s trumpet are rendered with crystal clarity and never intrude on other components of the performance.
I think Davis makes a strong claim as one of the best interpreters of this material working today. Despite the age of Whiting and Mercer’s song, it has not dated – songwriters of that generation, decades preceding the autobiographical singer/songwriter conceit people like Bob Dylan, among others, would usher into popular music, composers wrote songs aimed at the broadest possible audiences and therefore drew their subject matter from universally shared experiences rather than personal obscurities.
a stylish video accompanying the single’s release. It is a polished performance
video and has the same sort of upscale presentation visually that we hear
musically. Jonathan Shadle joins her for the video but the focal point is Davis
throughout and her radiant beauty makes it an even more enjoyable viewing
experience. “Too Marvelous for Words” is a fantastic standalone single and, if
chosen, could make for a fine track on a collection of such pop standards.
Margaret Davis understands this material and commands it with easy confidence
that inspires you to come back for more.