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Davis Coen – Jukebox Classic

Soundview - 2010

11 tracks; 35.12 minutes

Davis Coen is based in Charleston, South Carolina, and has recorded a number of CDs since the turn of the millennium. This one appears to be the remaining tracks from recording sessions in 2008, the first batch of which appeared on his 2009 release Magnolia Land. Like its predecessor, Jukebox Classic was produced by Jimbo Mathus and features the same band: Justin Showah on bass, Kent Kimbrough on drums and Eric Carlton on keys. Coen handles guitar and vocals and Mathus fills in on bass and guitar where required.

The title of the CD is a big clue as all these tracks come in at around three minutes and thereby qualify as ‘jukebox length’. There are seven originals written by Davis Coen but the CD kicks off in great style with a cover of Earl King’s “Better World”. I don’t know whether it’s Davis’ voice or the loping rhythm that reminds me of mid-period Clapton (think “Tulsa Time”). There then follows a run of originals, starting with “Don’t Ever Be Sorry” which has a definite country feel, ringing guitars and a lyric that stresses the need to look forward and have no regrets.

With Jimbo Mathus in the producer’s role I had expected more of a North Mississippi Hill Country music approach and that style is more apparent on the third track, “Cool With Me Tonight”, though in general that style of blues is not very much heard on this CD. Track 4 “Long Lost Friend” is another tune that is more country than blues. Twin guitars and piano lend themselves well to the tune. “Stranger In My Home” is much more of a blues with some nice restrained slide work on this mid-paced tune. “Bad Loser” with its rolling piano at the heart of the tune is pure pop, a catchy chorus and Davis’ rather sad voice on what, in another era, could certainly have been a popular choice on the jukebox.

“Waitin’ On A Fire” opens with dramatic organ and slide guitar and is again a catchy refrain, the guitars nagging away behind the main riff to keep the tune in your mind long after it has finished. The last original is “Tight Times”, the shortest track on the CD at just over 2 minutes. It is an acoustic blues piece in which Davis adopts a higher pitch in his vocal, making the song sound like something that one of the older bluesmen might have recorded.

The CD concludes with three covers which are all played fairly straight. “By And By” and “Big Leg Woman” are tagged as ‘Traditional’. The former is a slide driven gospel piece with strong drumming from Kent Kimbrough. The latter is not the Freddie King song, but occupies a similar place lyrically, Davis extolling the virtues of the fairer (and larger!) sex. Arthur Crudup’s “After Hours” brings the CD to a conclusion on a downbeat, the song’s bleak lyrics well presented in a mournful version.

Overall this is a solid CD with some good songs. I liked the idea of presenting a series of short songs that might have been the length required for a jukebox. Indeed, several would qualify in terms of their catchy nature. A positive aspect of the CD being leftovers from the earlier session is that no particular style dominates.

Reviewer John Mitchell is a blues enthusiast based in the UK. He also travels to the States most years to see live blues music.

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