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James Davis

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A jazzy sound sharing the inspiration and spiritual stories of when he was growing up, using a blend of popular music styles.

James Davis (1931-2007) was from Perry, Georgia. Mid-Georgia remains a vast untapped area of undocumented musical traditions. His music stemed from the fife and drum music, which is among the oldest African-American musical traditions. His father played the snare drum and his uncle played the bass drum. They used to go to the crossroads store on Saturday nights and play until Sunday morning, drawing crowds all night long. This music is simply called “Drumbeat.” When I first met James in 96 I saw simple flyers that stated “Drumbeat at the Turning Point.” This is where James played every Saturday night for many years. James played the old melodies of the fife with his electric guitar while his partner performed the old rhythms on a trap set.

Folklorist George Mitchell first met James Davis in the 70s. Blues scholar Axel Küstner visited James in the 90s and exclaimed to me, “James Davis is killer! Man, this guy is as deep and anything that ever came out of Mississippi!” I soon made my way to his gig in Warner Robbins, Georgia. Vendors were frying fish outside, I met James in the parking lot, he was a hulking giant, intimidating, but when I introduced myself and we got to talk, he was soft-spoken gentleman. I asked about recording that night and he just smiled and said that was a good idea.

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