OFFBEAT MAGAZINE REVIEWS: Voo Davis, Midnight Mist (Butter & Bacon Records)

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What do you get when a 21st Century white boy makes the same exodus as those of his blues idols—leaving Alabama for the big bad lights of Chiraq, um, Chicago?

It could have been a disaster for singer/songwriter/guitarist Voo Davis, but unlike a lot of his blues-rock peers, he never gets tripped up by authenticity. That is, he knows his education came secondhand through classic rock (the blues of the suburban South, never doubt it) and he uses all those stylistic tricks to his advantage. His first two releases were about proving he belonged on that stage.

Now with his third, he’s concentrating on the songs. And swinging for the rafters.

Voo’s vocals don’t sound like much at first, gruff but without a lot of range, but he invests so much emotionally in these 14 (!) meaty originals that you start to feel at home the way he marries Bad Company’s Paul Rodgers’ bark with Rod Stewart’s bite.

Then the details kick in, and even though his lyrical obsessions are pretty standard—the classic blues treatise on the slippery nature of happiness, usually embodied in a nearby woman—his attention to nuance makes them into something much more.
There’s “Find Me a Blackbone,” which uses echo like Hendrix used feedback, the canned and nearly chamber-pop string quartet that turns the pain of “Howling out Your Name” into something redemptive, and the dangerously SoCal soft-rock polish he’s not afraid to apply to “Laughing’ Out Loud.”

He’s still real enough to rock out (the riff of “My Love” is about as crunchy as they come) or let the Piedmont color gentle shuffles like the title track and “Nothing Changed at All.” And if he wanted to divert your attention from the neck of his guitar, Davis has triumphed completely.

It’s only when he rips out a wild solo on every fifth track or so that you remember how he got everyone’s attention in the first place.


 

Voo Davis – Midnight Mist

There is no shortage of blues guitar gun slingers these days. It can even be difficult to tell one from the other for many people. Gary Clark Jr. has had success melding his influences from outside the blues and there are a few folks who ride a blues/metal blues/country or any number of other blues trains but Voo Davis isn’t like any of them.

I suspect Voo collects guitars the way I collect records. He is always looking for a way to bring something new to his blues licks, a sound nobody has heard and fits in this very specific place. When I listen to his newest album, ‘Midnight Mist’ I imagine Voo spending hours looking for the perfect puzzle fxphotostudioexportedimage-12piece to fit each and every measure on the entire album, one by one by one.

Midnight Mist isn’t like his previous album, ‘Vicious Things,’ that showcased Voos impressive guitar skills. His guitar skills are on display throughout ‘Midnight Mist’ but he summons more control and relies more on his songwriting and production abilities than tossing in more hot licks. There are a ton of bluesmen I love that will never be able to take that step because it is easier to play solo after solo than it is to write a real song. Don’t get me wrong, I spin plenty of such blues; my point is that Voo Davis crafts each song and leaves me wanting more. I’m not sure where Voo can go from here but I suspect he already has something rattling around in his head and I can’t wait to hear it.

I highly recommend ‘Midnight Mist’ and you can pre-order it April 6th on iTunes and get 2 tracks instantly or order the CD which will include a bonus video of Riverside Blues and comes out April 28th. Yeah, I wish it was on vinyl but truth be told, I think I listened to the album 20 times while working in the garage. When you consider how many albums I listen too, that is an impressive feat.  ~Doug Hanson Mojolists

 

The sound of the Southern States filtered through a dirty, greasy rag 

From the opening track to the finale Voo Davis sounds like a cross between Joe Cocker and Roger Chapman fronting an All-star band made up of Levon Helm, Jack Bruce, Duane Allman, Leon Russell and Stefan Grappelli making Midnight Mist tick every box in every category of music that I love.

Made on a shoestring the album opens with When I get Back to You and follows with the title track; and I was already suffering from sensory overload; which isn’t to say this is ‘loud Rock’, far from it but Davis and his band create a ‘big sound’ that hits you like an Alabama heatwave and his brand of Sweet Southern Boogie quickly had my toes tapping.

Individual songs like Low Hanging Fruit, Music in the Streets and Cajun Sun are so cool they leave you tasting the moonshine and smelling the Magnolia blossom as the music filters out of the speakers; but this album grows in stature from start to finish; peaking in the middle with the awesome Howling Out Your Name and epic Find Me a Blackbone which are both full of slinky and dirty guitar licks and enough Hammond B3 to make your ears nearly explode.

Thankfully Davis slows things down after that Countrysonic assault and things become sultry and even a touch sexy with Laughing Out Loud as the singer ‘brings it on home.’

Most versions of Midnight Mist close with the softly beautiful Laughing Out Loud but the Deluxe Edition includes a couple of hot, Blue and righteous tracks called Void and You Wanna Know Why where the rasp in Voo Davis’ voice sounds like he’s actually sorry that the album has come to an end and his guitar solos are straight out of Duane Allman’s hot lick’s book.

I’ve now played this album late at night and on sunny days on headphones walking around town and blasting out in the car; and it is a perfect accompaniment for each   - I can’t recommend it highly enough.

 
Click the picture to Here WGN Chicago Podcast with Voo and Otis Clay on Dave Hoestras Nocturnal Journal

Click the picture to Here WGN Chicago Podcast with Voo and Otis Clay on Dave Hoestras Nocturnal Journal

Voo Davis
Midnight Mist
Butter and Bacon Records 25368
The third release for this Chicago-based artist is a delightful mix of blues, soul, R&B and other related tunes, all written by Davis and done honestly.  There are no electronic fixes, just the music, performed by musicians relying in their skills and the fact that they believe in what they are singing and it is based on personal experience rather than something that is produced by some music factory as such that orchestrates the whole deal based on statistics and what they believe people will like.  The result is honest, and passionate, filled with pure, raw emotional power.  This is the work of the band, 100% the way it came down on the days or nights in question.  Joining Davis on the album are Craig Borchers on drums, Michael Burkart on Hammond B-3, Reggie Winterland on bass, Calvin Conway on harmonica and fiddle and Carolyn Broussard & Dorian Rush on background vocals.  The result is an album that I found myself listening to repeatedly, not only not tiring of it, but hearing a little something new with each time through.  This is one of those pieces with a timeless quality...the kind of thing that will not get old with the passing of time.  Having spent years in a small record store I found that there were some albums that sold consistently over the years.  It is also an album that I will pull now and then just for the sheer pleasure I get out of hearing it.  Too often, after spending long hours, even days listening to something trying to find an angle for a review, I find myself putting it on the shelf never to be pulled out again.  Now and then I come across an album that I find unique and refreshing...Midnight Mist is one of those rare finds.  While this is not purely blues in the strictest sense, it falls into that category I call "Good Music."  Good music is just that, good music regardless of style, age or anything else.  Midnight Mist has a quality that is hard to put a finger on and even harder to put into a box but, I like it and would be willing to bet that there are those of you who read my ramblings who might just feel the same.  Check out a few samples and decide for yourself.  It caught my ear.  While there are tosoe artists who might be considered "All sizzle and no steak," Voo Davis is 100% USDA Prime.   -- Bill Wilson
 

Voo Davis – Midnight Mist

There is no shortage of blues guitar gun slingers these days. It can even be difficult to tell one from the other for many people. Gary Clark Jr. has had success melding his influences from outside the blues and there are a few folks who ride a blues/metal blues/country or any number of other blues trains but Voo Davis isn’t like any of them.

I suspect Voo collects guitars the way I collect records. He is always looking for a way to bring something new to his blues licks, a sound nobody has heard and fits in this very specific place. When I listen to his newest album, ‘Midnight Mist’ I imagine Voo spending hours looking for the perfect puzzle fxphotostudioexportedimage-12piece to fit each and every measure on the entire album, one by one by one.

Midnight Mist isn’t like his previous album, ‘Vicious Things,’ that showcased Voos impressive guitar skills. His guitar skills are on display throughout ‘Midnight Mist’ but he summons more control and relies more on his songwriting and production abilities than tossing in more hot licks. There are a ton of bluesmen I love that will never be able to take that step because it is easier to play solo after solo than it is to write a real song. Don’t get me wrong, I spin plenty of such blues; my point is that Voo Davis crafts each song and leaves me wanting more. I’m not sure where Voo can go from here but I suspect he already has something rattling around in his head and I can’t wait to hear it.

I highly recommend ‘Midnight Mist’ and you can pre-order it April 6th on iTunes and get 2 tracks instantly or order the CD which will include a bonus video of Riverside Blues and comes out April 28th. Yeah, I wish it was on vinyl but truth be told, I think I listened to the album 20 times while working in the garage. When you consider how many albums I listen too, that is an impressive feat.
Doug Hanson ~ Mojolists

Mojolists Review "Vicious Things"

 
Jul292013
 

I have been anxiously awaiting the arrival of the new Voo Davis album since I listened to his first one, A Place for Secrets. His initial offering showed a talent that was on the verge of full bloom. The recording was raw, the song writing strong but still somewhat unpolished. It was filled with promises.

Since I first started following Voo he has been spending a lot of time on the road, he has been more focused on his music and as a proud new father, his family. He has managed to juggle his priorities and keep them in balance. Vicious Things Vicious Thingsis itself a wonder of balance and growth. Everything about Vicious Things showcases Voo mastering his craft, from the polished songwriting down to one of the best blues mixes I have heard. The guitar work is extraordinary, as is the rest of the band. In particular, I foundCalvin Conway’s harp playing outstanding, as I would expect from my favorite blues harmonica player.

The sound quality of this record is top notch, something not often found in blues recordings. Voo takes musical equipment and technology seriously. He understands why analog is better than digital, he knows that you can create more emotion and have greater impact by leaving the natural dynamics intact and avoiding the dreaded dynamic compression that crushes the life out of so many recordings these days. He doesn’t need a computer to cover up bad playing.

According to the liner notes, the bulk of the album was recorded in a pair of historic Louisiana studios, using tube amps and vintage analog gear. My main system is a fairly high-end rig that is detailed and revealing to a point that poorly mixed albums are unlistenable. Vicious Things revealed the artful use of equipment long dismissed by less caring artists. It is a rare recording that lets you into the recording environment these days and Vicious Things successfully puts you in the studio with the band. Each artist retains a solid, focused position within the wide soundstage. The only hint of digital edge is a product of the media, the CD itself being the link between today and yesteryear.

Vicious Things opens up with what I have begun to call the “Wall of Voo” sound. After a slow build, One for the habit, One for the Road, turns into a runaway train guitar (the wall), punctuated by steam whistle harmonica blasts. The driving rhythm carries you directly to a glass of your favorite hard beverage, a theme that continues throughout the album.

Whispers picks right up again and takes us on a ride through the dark history of blues. Something I sense Voo finds sacred. He has taken blues history and added something new to it, something his own. 119 Presidents St. is the address of the 119 Underground blues club in Jackson Mississippi. I have never been there but I am betting this instrumental gives a damn good idea of what it feels like to sit at the bar and watch the stage.

Phantom Woman is the most surprising song on the album to me. Voo has shown a softer, more emotional ability previously, but this song shows a mastery of more than an idea. Each note is carefully placed, the layers of piano, guitar, and drum melded in perfect harmony. This is a songwriters song, it is the becoming of an artist.

Big Life flows smoothly; the go lucky guitar rhythm carries you along this tale of bad luck, perfectly matching the lyrics – “Everything’s good until you look inside”. Each song on Vicious Things belongs there, it is an album, a single complete work, a story told to various blues rhythms. I can almost hear the side A lead out after Waitin’ on That Day.

Vicious Things is the tale of the long journey between playing at being a bluesman and actually making the sacrifice required to be great without dealing at the crossroad. At its core, it takes us through the struggles of getting from A Place for Secrets to Vicious Things. This is what I see and hear when I listen. It is the road I like to imagine Voo walked to create an album that is as forward thinking as it is wrapped in the classic technology it embraces.

Voo Davis has established himself with Vicious Things and his future as a musician is now on much firmer ground and not just as a bluesman. I could go on and on about Vicious Things, it just hits me in the right place. I appreciate the care Voo took in recording this album, but right now, all I want to do is put the top down and crank One for the habit, One for the Road while I blast down a central Texas country road at a very unsafe velocity.

GOLDMINE MUSIC MAGAZINE'S "VT" REVIEW

By Mike Greenblatt

Chicago-via-Alabama guitarist Voo Davis rocks out on “Vicious Things” (Butter & Bacon Records). Nothing on his 2012 A Place For Secrets debut even hints at the ferocity of these grooves.

Voo DavisRecorded in Louisiana, with an enticing blend of bass, ukulele, harmonica, fiddle, keyboards and percussion backing up his rampaging guitar, Voo is a Hendrix/Buddy Guy/RL Burnside combo of blues-rock chops. Also a helluva lyricist, his self-produced 10 originals feature his dirt-road gravel voice singing tales of regret, loss and love, tempered by his obvious passion for life and the joys of freedom and release. Man, can he burn! “One For The Habit One For The Road” starts it off in dramatic style and there’s no looking back. Americana seems to be the hippest musical genre these days and Voo is a perfect example.

- See more at: http://www.goldminemag.com/reviews/variations-on-the-blues?

Jackson Free Press
   

Voo Davis: Pushing the Blues

Although it had been about a decade since Brian "Voo" Davis played guitar, it seemed to be the best thing to help fill the void when his first wife passed from blood clot complications in 2009.
"I realized that I needed to do things that make me happy, and music has always made me happy," Davis says. He recorded and released a full-length album, "A Place for Secrets," three years later. On Sept. 10 this year, Davis, 40, released a follow-up about moving on to new things: "Vicious Things."
"I think 'Vicious Things' is something that I'm going to look back on—the whole experience—and just be happy with," Davis says. He and a group of Chicago musicians recorded the album in eight days in Lousiana.
Davis, born in Anniston, Ala., moved to the Chicago, Ill., area with his family as a child. He says that the south often feels more like home than Illinois, where he still lives today. Audiences here seem more receptive to his playing style.
"It's like a second home almost. I've made six or seven trips down to Louisiana and Mississippi just this year alone," Davis says. "When they hear an over-driven acoustic guitar in Mississippi and Louisiana, it's intriguing; whereas in Illinois they really want you to play that Strat or play that Gibson and play shuffles and play everybody else's songs. That's not really what I do; I play my songs."
Davis admits that he started learning the guitar late—he was already 20 years old—but he quickly understood the instrument.
"While my friends would be going out or doing whatever they do, I would be locking myself in a room just playing," he says. Davis was on the road with Eddie King after about six years of playing.
Initially, Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughn were two big influences, but Davis wanted more.
"I found that a lot of people were mimicking their sound, so I went in search of other things," Davis says.
The slide guitar piqued his interest, and then he sought to play more like Alvin Youngblood Hart or Mississippi John Hurt. They used their thumb and fingers to fret the guitar at once, creating the illusion of a piece of music having two guitar players. "To me, that seemed intriguing and kind of a challenge," Davis says.
Davis tries to write music that transcends the generic blues formula, incorporating more detailed lyrics. He wants his listeners to also pay attention to the words.
"On 'Vicious Things,' I'm trying to write lyrics that are more intelligent," he says. "A lot of times, musicians, when they're writing blues songs, they keep it really simple. ... I tried to push the lyric writing on all of my songs, not just the blues songs. I tried to push the concepts."
The album also goes beyond blues—although that's what Davis is known for—with its instrumentation. Featured instruments on "Vicious Things" include the usual guitar, bass and drums, but also include a B3 organ, clavinet, vibraslap, ukulele, fiddle, mandolin and Wurlitzer.
"I just did blues for years, so I think that's part of the sound. But that's not the only sound. This album has everything from swamp pop to jazz to rock to Americana, and I try not to pigeonhole myself," Davis says. "I try to let the songs speak."
While each song has some of the same main elements, each one also tends to lean in different directions. Davis describes the opening track, "One for the Habit, One for the Road," as more of an "overdriven blues" acoustic slide-guitar song. The next track, "Whisper," is more rock-based. On it, Davis comments on the music industry. "Phantom Woman," however, has somewhat of a jazzy chord structure.
"'Phantom Woman' is about being in Chicago," Davis says. "There were some late nights driving home from a show when I'd be the only one on Lakeshore Drive." The song talks about being on that road, perhaps the only one to see a beautiful sunrise over the lake.
Davis wrote the last song on the album, "Put Your Head on My Shoulder," for his current wife, Brooke, when she was pregnant.
"I woke up one morning and sat on a dock at Dockside Studio overlooking a river and wrote the song," he says. "We recorded it that day, and it was done."

Voo Davis plays at 9 p.m. Sept. 28 at Underground 119 (119 S. President St., 601-352-2322). The cover price is $10. His newest album, "Vicious Things," is available for purchase online. Visit voodavis.com.

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