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Guy Davis
You Don’t Know My Mind,  Red House Records CD RHR 113, 1998

 Guy goes pop

The third release for a developing art ist is usually make-or-break time, and since acoustic blues is a commercial no-man’s land it’s hard to begrudge Guy Davis taking a pop approach on  You Don’t Know My Mind. Unfortunately, the production is so lame on this release that there’s hardly a trace of the sound that made his other discs– Call Down the Thunder and  Stomp Down Rider, a live solo recording–worthwhile.

Davis has been around awhile, first recording for Folkways twenty years ago, then pursuing a career as an actor (the son of actors Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee, he was a regular on the daytime soap  One Life to Live). After combining acting with his love for the blues in Broadway and off-Broadway productions (he earned raves playing Robert Johnson in  Trick the Devil), he renewed his recording career with Red House Records.

Guy is not a flashy guitarist, but his slide work is very fine and he’s a good fingerpicker, especially his Blind Willie McTell-inspired 12-string work. And though his gruff voice isn’t terribly expressive, he’s a very good storytelling songwriter who is clearly having fun.  Call Down the Thunder infectiously captured the essence of pre-war acoustic blues.

Call me a purist, but it’s disappointing to hear producer Ivan Ramirez sabotage Guy’s sound on  You Don’t Know My Mind. You’ll rarely hear a drum machine on a blues album, and thirty seconds into the first track tells why. A good programmer can coax a little life out of a drum machine, but Ramirez’s robotic tracks are as stiff as a board, rendering the session DOA as soon as the rhythm tracks were down. The producer is also to blame for the MOR reverb treatment of Davis’ harmonica playing, and the cheesy synth pads.

The three solo acoustic tracks are worthwhile, especially the 12-string fingerpicking on "Dorothy is Harlem Bound."  You Don’t Know My Mind may please the casual pop blues fan, but if you’re looking for the real stuff, save your money for  Call Down the Thunder or check out releases from Alvin Youngblood Hart and Corey Harris.– Scott Boggan

of related interest

Guy Davis
 Call Down the Thunder, Red House Records CD RHR CD 89, 1996
This is the one to get.

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