world's top two Blues Magazines
have to say about Dary'ls CD recordings:
LIVING BLUES (September – October 2000 / Issue # 153)
Daryl Davis sounds like an interesting guy – born in Chicago in 1958, he has a bachelor’s degree in music from Howard University in Washington, D.C. (which has become his home), and is the author of a book about interacting with the Ku Klux Klan. More to the point, he is a singer and keyboard player with an affinity as the title indicates for American roots music.
More specifically, Davis is into ‘50’s rock’n’roll, his influences obvious from the booklet photos depicting him alongside half a dozen of his heroes: Chuck Berry, Johnnie Johnson, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, Fats Domino, and Pinetop Perkins. He kicks off the all original playlist by pounding and rippling the keys on a pile-driving boogie and offers a different twist on the same theme on Let Me Boogie With Your Woogie. The tempo stays up for We All Owe A Debt (to Chuck Berry) and the Little Richard-doo wop hybrid Karen Lee, as well as for the country-tinged One Foot In The Graveyard (and “one hand on the nurse”), and Broadminded, with help from Bob Margolin’s guitar and Ron Holloway’s raucous tenor sax. No one-trick pony, Davis explores rock’n’roll’s blues roots on Double D Blues, an After Hours-like tribute to Johnson, and the closer, an updated interpretation of Pinetop Boogie. More modern blues sounds are heard on the horn-driven, uptempo Leave Me Alone and the downbeat I’m Coming Back. Going Back To The Country, with Phil Wiggins joining the band on harp, is drawn from the Key To The Highway family of melodies, and Romp In The Swamp, with the leader doubling on accordion, is a zydeco-style burner with just a touch of New Orleans second line rhythm.
Throughout, Davis’ piano work impresses with its winning combination of technique and abandon, and his vocals are strong and assured, making American Roots a noteworthy debut – black rock’n’roll lives!
– Jim DeKoster
BLUES REVUE (January – February 2001 / Issue # 64)
Pianist Daryl Davis earned his stripes playing with Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley and The Coasters. In 1985, Pinetop Perkins chose Davis to take his slot in Muddy Waters’ Legendary Blues Band. All those influences reveal themselves on American Roots, 12 Davis originals that combine his love for blues, R&B and ‘50’s-era rock’n’roll. Davis, in the tradition of Perkins, Otis Spann and Johnnie Johnson, knows how to roll out the blues and boogie.
It’s easy to see how a song like “I’m Your Boogie Man” has become a favorite of Davis’ shows. No, we’re not talking about K. C. & The Sunshine Band’s ‘70’s dico hit, but Davis’ salute to boogie-woogie piano is just as danceable, and the background vocals add a comic touch. “Let Me Boogie With Your Woogie” explores similar terrain with equally fine results. Davis honors Berry with “We All Owe A Debt,” a song written in Berry’s style featuring lyrics that recount the rocker’s glory days and his influence on such players as George Thorogood.
The well-rounded album offers a blues shuffle guitar scorcher in “Leave Me Alone” and a boogie piano-laced country-blues hybrid in “Going Back To The Country,” which features Phil Wiggins on harmonica. Legendary Blues Band alumnus Bob Margolin adds guitar to “Broadminded,” a tongue-in-cheek, not-quite-PC rock song inspired by Elvis Presley movies.
Davis mainly writes good-time party music, and the uptempo rocker “Karen Lee” falls into that category. But according to the liner notes, the song was inspired by a real-life Karen Lee, a photocopy store worker who was the only person in the shop willing to handle photos of Davis and members of the Ku Klux Klan. Davis created the photographs for his book Klan-Destine Relationships, a newly published chronicle of his efforts to create racial harmony by talking with Klan members. That Davis can pursue such a serious quest and create music as joyful as American Roots is worth celebrating.
– Michael Cote