Derek Davis, Resonator Blues, album review, Rock and Blues Muse

By Robert Rheubottom

Derek Davis storms back in 2019 with brand new music. The Babylon A.D. co-founder drops his third solo album, Resonator Blues on June 1 via Southern Blood Music Records.

Resonator Blues is the follow up to Davis’ 2017 sophomore effort, Revolutionary Soul. The release features ten original tracks, self-penned by Davis, including the singles “Sweet Cream Cadillac” and “Mississippi Mud” along with some choice cover material.

Derek Davis has boldly explored a wide range of styles and influences over the course of his solo career, which began with the hard rock stew served up on his 2012 debut album Re-Volt, and then moved into a more R&B direction on Revolutionary Soul. In his latest outing, Davis digs further back into his roots by experimenting with a range of traditional blues styles, as well as folk and rockabilly elements, served up with a hard rock edge.

Resonator Blues showcases the full range of the multi-talented singer-songwriter’s abilities. Davis puts his personal signature on each track with his gritty yet soulful voice and further flexes his artistic muscles by performing all the rhythm, lead, slide and bass guitar parts himself

The proceedings kick off with the sonic boom of the album’s title track. “Resonator Blues” features blistering slide chops and a tasty piano solo with a tip of the hat to early Chicago blues as Davis bemoans the trials and tribulations of loving a high-spirited woman.

The San Francisco native dons a vintage Silverstone acoustic guitar for the album’s lead single “Sweet Cream Cadillac.” Hot women and cool cars are the subject matter in this tribute to the early 60s, which highlights Davis’ infectious guitar work and sly lyrics in this jump blues workout with backing from a stripped-down rhythm section of hand-claps and a big bass drum.

“Mississippi Mud” takes the listener on a journey of discovery in the birthplace of the blues. Davis’ infuses Delta blues with a splash of swamp rock as he conjures sweaty images of juke joints and railroad lines while paying tribute to legendary bluesmen such as Son House, Muddy Waters and Little Walter. Davis struts his stuff on slide guitar and receives tasty fill work from longtime associate Charlie Knight on harmonica, with the two pairing up to trade licks on the solo.

The versatile artist shifts gears easily, whether he’s paying homage to Americana on the poignant prison ballad “Penitentiary Bound” or incorporating Appalachian influences on the frenzied “Jesus Set Me Free” or honking through some Texas blues on the spicy “Red Hot Lover.”

Davis also puts his own stamp on the two covers featured on Resonator Blues, returning to the Delta with a chilling performance of Son House’s signature number “Death Letter,” while adding some beefy distorted slide on the Elmore James’ blues standard, “It Hurts Me Too.”

“Whiskey and Water” and “Unconditional Love” are a pair of acoustic-rockers, which are reminiscent of Davis’ early work as frontman and principal songwriter with Babylon A.D., while “Back In My Arms” features some “nudge-nudge, wink-wink” lyrics about an ex-lover who comes crawling back.

Resonator Blues chugs to its conclusion with plenty of steam on the final track “Prison Train.” Davis builds the ominous mood of the song in layers around the central riff, which hits full throttle on the solo with Davis once again delivering some searing bottleneck slide while going toe-to-toe with Knight, who wails on harmonica.

Davis displays a deep appreciation and respect for the traditional blues styles that he explores on Resonator Blues. His songs reveal an honesty, as well as a range of emotion and power, which are the hallmarks of the form. Yet he chooses to take inspiration from his sources rather than remain slavishly tied to them. As an artist, Davis consistently steps outside the mold to take his music in a new direction and attempts to give each new song a unique character. It should be interesting to see where his muse leads him on the next album. Definitely worth checking out!

Derek Davis Online