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Charles “CD” Davis – 24 Hour Blues

Blues House Records

11 tracks – 50.54 minutes

Charles “CD” Davis was the guitarist in the Calvin Owens Blues Orchestra until Calvin’s death in 2008. This is his first solo release and it is a definite keeper. The CD features four different vocalists (Charles himself does not sing), all of whom are excellent, a horn section drawn from members of the Calvin Owens Orchestra and Charles plays superb guitar in a variety of styles throughout the album. Eight tracks are originals, written by Charles and collaborators. The three covers come from as diverse a selection as you can imagine - Gary Moore, Eddy Arnold and Tampa Red!

Personally I am always attracted to albums that have variety and this one hits the mark in that respect, with songs that cover soulful Rn’B, fingerpicking backporch acoustic, late night jazzy blues and big band styles. The ace up Charles’ sleeve is the quartet of vocalists who all deliver superbly in different ways. Trudy Lynn has a deep voice which adds great expression to the sad lyrics of “Still Got The Blues” and although the tune and guitar stylings are so familiar it is Trudy’s vocal that adds to the original. In contrast “It’s Tight Like That” is a fun romp through the old Tampa Red/Georgia Tom classic with strong guitar and keys. The horns are not present on these two tracks, apart from a great sax solo on the Gary Moore tune.

The other female voice is Roberta Donnay who provides a sultry jazz-tinged vocal on “A Minor Thing” which she co-wrote with Charles. Gentle horns accompany the band, the trumpets provide a counterpoint to the vocal and a beautifully played guitar solo all contribute to an excellent track. Roberta’s jazzy vocals also appear on “That’s How I Learned To Sing The Blues” which gives Charles the opportunity to play some very jazzy chords alongside violin and muted trumpet, overall giving something of a Stéphane Grappelli/Django Reinhardt feel to the track. The song comes from the pen of Henry Hipkens, a Nashville songwriter who also co-wrote “When Mama Leaves Town”, another standout track. Vocalist here is Rue Davis who has a touch of Bobby Bland in his voice, ideally suited to this sort of soulful blues. This is definitely a big band number, tough guitar with great tone set against a full horn section.

Rue is also the featured vocalist on Eddy Arnold’s 1955 “You Don’t Know Me”, a slow blues with a touch of country and a vocal that is pure Ray Charles – superb! Another big band number, the horns provide a gentle cushion on which Rue’s vocals nestle warmly and a launch pad for expressive solos from Charles and Horace Alexander Young on sax. Rue’s third contribution is part of a double act vocal with the other male voice on the album, Jabo – “The Texas Prince Of Zydeco” – though no sign of zydeco hereabouts! The track is one of Charles’ originals, “Old Fashioned Woman”, a classic shuffle, Rue giving us some more of his Bobby Bland stylings and Jabo testifying in gruffer tones. Out of the mix of voices Bruce Middleton’s sax emerges almost by surprise with a strong solo.

Jabo leads on opening track “Help Me Baby”, a nice rolling blues in which Jabo is in court and needs help to pay a fine or he may face a substantial prison sentence! This is another of the big band productions, the horns really swinging and short solos from organ and guitar. In complete contrast Jabo is the vocalist on “Lonely Man Blues” which is the most laidback track on the CD, just his vocal and Charles’ acoustic guitar, a classic blues, Jabo alone at the side of the road unable to get a ride. Jabo’s final contribution is “Worried” described as ‘downhome soul’ on the CD and it lives up to that description. Starting low key, the song builds into what could easily have been a lost BB King track from the 50’s. Another full big band production, this one builds all the way along, courtesy of the horns, before Charles solos in T-Bone style. That leaves just the closing track, instrumental “Blues For My Father”. Charles starts this one at a relaxed pace before a drum roll leads into some very strong and expressive playing. Definitely a feature for Charles’ guitar, the horns are absent from this one though keyboard player Jean Paul Paine also features strongly, his organ soloing over the long fade.

The core band on this CD is either Tyson Sheth or Marvin Sparks on drums, Anthony Sapp or Keith Vivens on bass, Jean Paul Paine or Duane Massey on keys and Charles “CD” Davis on guitar. The horn players are too numerous to mention but everyone on the CD does a tremendous job. The CD was recorded in Houston and produced by Charles and is issued on his own label. The sound quality and dynamics of the disc are excellent, so kudos to all involved. I can recommend this one very highly indeed and I think it will be on rotation on my system for a while!

Reviewer John Mitchell is a blues enthusiast based in the UK.  He also travels to the States most years to see live blues music and is currently planning a visit to the Tampa Bay Blues Festival.

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