Monday, January 23, 2017

Thornetta Davis – Honest Woman

There’s a reason why Detroit native Thornetta Davis is often called “Detroit’s Queen Of The Blues.” It may be because of the 30 or so awards she has won for her blues and R&B work around the Motor City. It may be because of her in demand work with the likes of Bob Seger and Kid Rock. It may be because of her songs being featured in hit television shows and movies.
It might even be because of her appearances with the likes of Bonnie Raitt and Katie Webster.
But the simple reason is because she is that damn good.
Davis has a voice that commands your attention. Her songwriting is crisp and clear and she has a poet’s ear for language. Her latest album, Honest Woman, is a cause for celebration and while it was released in 2016, I only just received a copy, so it’s going into my 2017 pile so I can include it in my annual Best Of post.
Count on it.
Davis makes sure that Honest Woman reflects her vision. Besides providing all of the lead vocals, she also wrote or co-wrote all but one of the 13 songs on the album. Most of which will be receiving major air play on Time For The Blues and just about every other blues show I could name.
The album starts off with the only song not written by nor actually performed by Davis herself, When My Sisters Sings The Blues, a beautiful poem written and delivered by her sister, Felicia Davis. Speaking only for myself, I love poetry, and it was the words that originally attracted me to music. Felicia Davis delivers the poem with style, grace, and enough pizzazz that even those of you who are not usually entranced by spoken word performances might find yourself turning up the volume just a little to catch more of it. Brian (Roscoe) White provides a lovely plaintive backing guitar.
The rest of the album is very musical starting with her autobiographical anthem, I Gotta Sang The Blues. This cut features Kim Wilson joining in on vocals. Of course, he has to blow the harp as well and the song gets into a strong groove and never stops. An excellent song.
She follows up with That Don’t Appease Me, a soulful tune dealing with things that obviously do not make her happy. The percussion drives the song forward with a steady angry beat and the other instruments are sharp and pointed. Whomever this song is directed towards better beat a hasty retreat.
Davis tries a different tone on the next track, Set Me Free. It’s crisp and funky with sweet backing vocals. The musicians are in good form and there is a lot of power in the song.
Things slow down with Am I Just A Shadow. Davis’ vocals are sweeter, lush, but the lyrics tell a different story. I really like this song a lot – it’s well written and the kind of song that could cross over into other genres with its universal themes. Great emotion.
Davis gets back into her sassy groove with I Need A Whole Lotta Lovin To Satisfy Me. It’s a fun song and she spells it out for you as far as what she looks for in a lover. The horns really sell this number and I bet when she does this song live, a line forms at the stage door with men hoping to get their chance.
We’re back in funky territory with I’d Rather Be Alone. It starts off with a slow smoldering beat and build up. Davis speaks her delivery before moving into singing backed up by a chorus of voices that evokes those great girl groups of the ‘60’s. Very cool song that really delivers. And her purring delivery at the end of the song is hysterical and cruel at the same time.
She shifts gears with the optimistic I Believe (Everything Gonna Be Alright), using a touch of gospel to get us into the song. Then she moves into a driving rock beat with backing vocals that shoop shoop us. One thing about Davis, she is not afraid of mixing different sounds to great effect. She’s not strictly blues, not strictly R&B, she’s her own voice and that works for me.
Sister Friends Indeed starts out with a swampy feel and the lyrics speak of the strength of friendships between women. If anyone doubts that, take a few minutes to check out the number of women who stood shoulder to shoulder in recent marches. If women could all unite, think of the power they would wield.
Get Up And Dance Away Your Blues starts out with a great horn vamp and the song quickly moves into some serious swinging. This will probably be the first song, but certainly not the last, to be featured on Time For The Blues. It rocks, swings, soars and dives. Hold on to something because it’s a great ride.
The tempo slows down with Can We Do It Again. It has a big jazzy feel to it and once again Davis’ vocals really dominate. She’s in total command and the band stays in check for the most part in support. There’s a lot of playful fun in the lyrics.
Next up is the title track, Honest Woman, a soul-searching cut that examines her life. This is another song that could very easily achieve cross over status as it is so well written, so universal, a truly beautiful number.
The album closes with Feels Like Religion, a driving funk fest that rushes forward with great percussion, honkytonk piano, and some very strong lyrics. Yes, there’s some great gospel attitude in the song, but only as a bit of flavor. Very good guitar work as well to end the album on a high note.
I know this has been a long post, I tend to get a little wordy when I hear something that I like. And I like this album a lot. In fact, Honest Woman is the kind of album that makes me want to grab strangers by the lapels and ask if they have heard it yet.
Since I can’t do that without getting arrested – or maced – let me ask you, stranger, have you heard any of this album yet? Do yourself a favor and visit her website at http://thornettadavis.com/ to sample it and once you find yourself moved, open up that wallet and pony up a few bucks and get your own copy.

Thornetta Davis could be Detroit’s greatest export since the Mustang or the music of Motown. 

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