Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Better Than Television and ’52 Special “Live in the Studio” reviewed by Mark Thompson

Better Than Television
Westside Andy & Glenn Davis
Moonfish Records
11 tracks/41:24

’52 Special “Live in the Studio”
Glenn Davis & Matt Goodwin
Moonfish Records
8 tracks/36:30

Glenn Davis is the godfather of blues music in southern Wisconsin, particularly for the weekly jam sessions that he staged at his old club, the Silver Moon in Darien. There are plenty of area musicians who owe Glenn a debt of gratitude for providing them with a place where they could learn to play blues under his watchful tutelage. These days Davis has a number of regular gigs in the area that give listeners plenty of opportunities to hear his laidback performances.

Two new recordings on his own label team Davis with two of his favorite musical partners. The first disc pairs him with Westside Andy Linderman, the great harp player from Madison. Davis handles the vocals, guitar and all of the backing tracks. The duo sounds right at home on easy rolling tracks like “Twice as Much” or “I Woke Up with the Blues”. Glenn’s warm vocal over the loping rhythm on “Rock Me in the Morning” is a highlight, as is Westside Andy’s stellar playing on the instrumental “One to One”. They navigate faster tempos with relative ease with Davis throwing a few Chuck Berry licks on the title track before getting funky on “Here Ya Come Baby”. They lay down a deep sound on “Can’t Change the Blues” with Andy blowing mesmerizing lines over Glenn’s sturdy rhythm guitar and mournful cries at the end. Linderman’s poignant playing on the ballad “Full Moon Friend” is another highlight.

Davis and guitarist Matt Goodwin used to hold court in the bar at the much-beloved Gun Club. For the last couple of years, they have been playing Thursday evenings at Domenico’s restaurant in downtown Beloit. Their disc features several songs that are staples of their marathon sets, with support coming from Tim Walter on bass, Dave Braun on drums and Ralph Lapetina on keyboards. “Cool Rockin’ Mama” is one of five Davis originals, getting the disc off to swinging start, especially when Goodwin cuts loose with a rapid-fire solo. They slow the pace on “Lonliest Man in the World”, with Davis bemoaning his inability to keep his woman satisfied. Lapetina uses his Hammond organ to fill out the arrangement, although his solo is buried in the mix. “Don’t Lose the Funk” lives up to the title while “Twice as Much” finds Davis making sure the object of his affections knows about everything he has to offer. Goodwin contributes three memorable tunes. On “You Don’t Write”, he chastises a former lover accompanied by a slinky rhythm. His rousing vocal on the fast shuffle “Trickle Down Blues” is a highlight while on “Saw Her on the Corner”, he describes his unfortunate luck with women with Lapetina on the Hammond once again in the spotlight.

Davis burns these discs himself and sells them at his live shows. The disc with Westside Andy sounds like two friends sitting on the back porch having some fun. The Goodwin pairing considerably raises the energy level yet Davis still sounds right at home, his laidback approach serving as a fine contrast to Goodwin’s more aggressive style. Together, the two recordings give listeners a glimpse at Mr. Davis’s wide-ranging musical universe and offer quite a bit of musical merry-making at the same time. We are blessed to have such a talented musician in our midst. Catch one of Glenn’s live shows – and show him some love!

Reviewed by Mark Thompson

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