Guy Davis opened his set at The Arts Station on Wednesday, April 22 with an anecdote of one of his visits to the area when he photographed his son at Sparwood’s Titan Truck 20 years ago.
“That was the most memorable time. I’ve been here since then, at least once probably twice I’ve come here with my son,” said Davis. “I like the space, the feeling, the people around here. It’s a good vibe in this town.”
It didn’t take long for Davis’ penchant for history to transport attendees back in time, accompanied by a slide and an acoustic/electric 12-string that rasped along with his bluesy voice.
In a setlist stuffed with blues tributes like “Saturday Blues” and “Prodigal Son,” Davis also slipped his original work into the mix.
From recalling his lovesick relationships and more anecdotes of singing his son to sleep, Davis’ voice filled The Arts Station.
Audience participation was also a huge theme of the evening. With easily parroted melodies being repeated and acting as faithful background vocals through his two-hour performance.
“In traditional blues there’s not necessarily a lot of audience response, the guitar player’s guitar kind of responds to him as he’s singing … My goal is to try and get a room full of people to sing together who never knew that they could sound so beautiful singing songs they don’t even necessarily know,” said Davis.
For a New York-born bluesman, Davis delivered plenty of southern twang throughout the night.
“I’m no purist, I play the blues and that’s my label but I do other things like ragtime. And I like to tell stories when I’m up on stage,” Davis explained.
Davis said that he first fell in love with the blues when he was young and had no idea the historical significance of the genre.
“The first time I heard blues it was being played by white college boys and I didn’t know at that time its history with African American folks, but I knew it was special when I heard it,” said Davis, adding, “Looking back, I can say that it was like calling something inside of me. It was already something inside of me that was locked up that had to be let out.”
With no patience for formal lessons, Davis picked up a 5-string banjo and eventually a 6- and 12-string guitar to teach himself how to play.
“I became the entertainers that I saw when I was a kid who I thought were magic. That was my ambition – to play to the child that’s in everyone and it’s ongoing and there’s always room for improvement,” he said.