David Davis has come a long way since he first picked up the mandolin. As leader of the Warrior River Boys for nearly 25 years, he has seen many festivals, hotels, diners and overnight drives. Decidedly the most significant thing he's seen in those years is the evolution of his music. From a strict adherence to the traditional style of bluegrass to a more contemporary sound, Davis has always strived to bring a fresh, sincere sound to his fans. Two Dimes And A Nickel is testament to this man's ambition and is the latest installment in his life's work.
Davis took over the Warrior River Boys in 1985 and carried it on with the traditional lineup of fiddle, guitar, banjo, mandolin and bass. At the time, the young leader was obsessed with Bill Monroe and stayed very much within Monroe’s style of playing. He, the mandolin player, was the tenor singer in the band; the guitar player was the lead singer; and gospel numbers were done as quartets. The band closely follows this form on their releases from 1990 and 1994.
Though Davis and the band toured regularly throughout the late 90s and early 2000s, they stayed away from the studio until 2004. That year he released his first album for Rebel and, with it, revealed a new direction in his music. Gone was the fierce devotion to the Monroe-style of bluegrass and in its place was a fresher, more creative sound. Davis handled more of the lead vocal work, and the arrangements–while still traditional in their timing and overall sound–were distinctly more contemporary in style and taste. The most important change, however, was in the choice of material. There were no more tired war horses done up in revivalist fashion. Davis had not only found new songs from undiscovered writers, but also revived and refreshed some overlooked classics. He found his true musical self in this style and has continued to refine his sound with 2007's Troubled Times and this newest recording.
Two of David's favorite writers of late contribute the bulk of the album's twelve songs. Alan Johnston leads the way with the title, and perhaps standout, track–a continuance and end of the life of the desperate John Hardy. Also from the pen of Johnson are "I Can Hear Daddy Play The Fiddle," sung from the view point of a homesick prisoner, and two gospel flavored numbers. Longtime friend and former band mate Tommy Freeman pitches in with the love/murder ballad "The Brambles, Briars And Me," a song about life on the skids in "Hard Times," and a prodigal son story with "The Tennessee Line." The remaining tracks comprise the band's take on a couple more familiar numbers, a Jim Eanes tune, the Marshall Tucker Band's southern rocker "Blue Ridge Mountain Sky" and Jim Kelly's "Never Looking Back."
So the payoff from all those hotels, festivals, and long hauls is the growth of David Davis' musical personality. As you listen to the latest incarnation of his music, know that he's already thinking about where to take it next. But for now, let's absorb the brilliance that he and his band have given us in this new release – Two Dimes And A Nickel.