Guy Davis Kokomo Kidd

Review by Willard Maus

Guy Davis has quite a pedigree. Son of actors Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee, student of folk singer Pete Seeger, Davis had a good start in life, one that he has built on over the years. Not only has he worked extensively as an actor (Finian’s Rainbow on Broadway) but he has won many plaudits as a singer/musician (“Keeping the Blues Alive” award in 1999).

Now, in his second release for M.C. Records, Davis shows off his many gifts on KOKOMO KIDD, an album that he considers a new beginning for himself. It’s “the first time I produced myself,” he explained. “What I’m showing is a side of me that’s deep inside. It’s needing air and light, and here it comes!”

The title tune gets the album off to an hilarious and scandalous start: it’s the ballad of an old black dude who, in Prohibition times, used to deliver bootleg liquor to the White House by horse and buggy. And what’s more he’s still going strong today, he boasts. “I’ve calmed all of Washington’s fears, kept the Supreme Court high for years.” He signs off with a comic flourish: “I got a meeting at to bring coke to the GOP.”

Twelve more tunes follow, seven of which are Davis originals, including I Wish I Hadn’t Stayed Away So Long, the touching lament of a bluesman who now regrets having spent more time on the road than with his family. “Can’t count the times I’ve stole away and cried.”

There are also covers of songs by Dylan (Lay Lady Lay), Willie Dixon (Little Red Rooster) and Donovan (Wear Your Love Like Heaven). On each and every track Davis gives his all, singing and playing up a storm (six and twelve-string guitars, banjo, harmonica, keyboards, percussion). His band-mates kick out the stops as well, including Professor Louie on piano and organ, Gary Burke, drums, Mark Murphy, acoustic bass and cello. Such guest stars Charlie Musselwhite (harmonica) and Ben Jaffe (tuba) also help make KOKOMO KIDD the remarkable album it is.