There are records that I can’t review straight away, or I can, but I always risk to seem exaggerated or too emphatic for the emotions that make me feel at first listening (even after multiple) or for the quality that exudes from the speakers. Here I didn’t make it (like last year’s Whiskey Myers record) and I have to tell you about it and tell you something about an artist who is like a hidden treasure of pirates, which once found you won’t leave easily. Trust me. Ward Davis is an excellent author, a truly unique talent and has been on the circuit of the best in Nashville for 20 years now, has written songs for Willie Nelson, Trace Adkins, Merle Haggard, Sammmy Kershaw and more recently for his great friend Cody Jinks, icon and living exponent of the independent outlaw country. Just the collaboration with him, both in the studio and live, put finally and in a deserved way Davis, on the maps of American country rock music. He’s a very good guitarist but also a talented pianist and this distinguishes him and does not make him a simple outlaw, like Jinks, Stapleton, Lamantia, Creed Fisher or Jamey Johnson, not that these are not good indeed but the musical dimension of Ward Davis is wider (maybe that’s his being also a pianist) and almost embraces street rock, melodic rock but energetic. If I have to think of a comparison with a myth of music stars and stripes the first name that comes to mind is Tom Petty. In my opinion, I add very modestly, can be the most credible heir without distorting because anyway that country feeling, of real life, that taste of dust and cowboy boots, do not abandon him and indeed make his way of making music original and unique. The debut of Davis , after years behind the scenes of the greats of Nashville, happened in 2015 with the excellent 15 Years in a 10 Town (very autobiographical) that contained one of his most beautiful pieces (co-written with another Nashville mythological author, Marla Cannon-Goodman, daughter of producer Buddy Cannon) Unfair Weather Friend. A piece that the bearded Ward had given to the duo Nelson-Haggard for the wonderful lotus album Django & Jimmie (2015) but then he had also interpreted in a wonderful way. The following of that record, between hundreds of concerts and collaborations, seemed never to arrive and had made the mouth water fans (mitigated a little by an EP called Asunder and released in 2018 with a cover as a case of Tom Petty, Time To Move On). Here we are at that second long-awaited record, the wait was not in vain indeed it exceeded expectations. This Black Cats and Crows is a true jewel of country, rock and so much talent, 14 pieces for almost an hour of great American music, produced by the trusty Jim “Moose” Brown. The songs are not all unreleased, there are songs appeared on his friend Cody Jinks’s album, like the ballad Colorado, melancholy with his violin intro and a shivering vocal interpretation, or like the beautiful and bluesy Papa and Mama, from an album by Ray Scott for which Davis played the piano, but especially the closing of the record Good and Drunk. The song is about Davis‘ divorce, an event that also marked the general feeling of some songs and was also featured in Asunder (the 2018 EP). The work opens with a very rock piece, Ain’t Gonna Be Today, the work on guitars and pedal-pedal-steel is masterful, an engaging rhythm where the wonderful voice of Davis gives the proverbial icing on the cake of a song that shows that the artist is not only a countryman but a rocker breed and with a sensitivity rare to find (who said Tom Petty?). The title-track is one of my favorites, a ballad that opens with the piano that accompanies the intense and melancholic singing of Ward, slow and tension that the guitar breaks at least a little with his beautiful solo. Lyrically he is a poet and is not a novelty but this text is really perfect “the devil’s in the details and the details pave the way / For every bed and every debt and every step we take / God must have it in for me, why He only knows
‘Cause every road I walk I see black cats and crows.” One of the songs that most excited me in this 2020. Among the co-authors of the piece the usual Jinks and Tennessee Jet, another excellent author. If we want to find the outlaw country soul that is in the beard of Ward Davis just listen to Sound of Chains, a dirty song and dragged with guitars on the shields to scratch the air (a highlight for heavy metal fans is the collaboration with Anthrax frontman Scott Ian) and the subsequent Get to Work Whiskey, here too, supported by a spectacular work of guitars that embroidered an irresistible riff and by the voice of Davis who tells us in an original way a very country story of bars and whiskey. After so much talk about disappointments of love and sadness, finally we have a sunny and positive song, Heaven Had a Hand, a wonderful love song of those who found after so long to look for the right person, no overdubs, no super sought arrangements : a simple ballad that Davis‘ voice raises to the usual with its intensity and talent. A perfect record, many songs, 14 are not few but none makes you think ok now step forward on the contrary, and I did not tell you all because I would have been unnecessarily redundant but believe me it is absolutely worth putting this work on the plate, sincere and direct, simple but imbued with an uncommon talent. A record that will be adored by true country lovers, the fans of Cody Jinks, Mickey Lamantia, Jamey Johnson but also by those who eat American rock and blues by the author, a bit Tom Petty a bit Springsteen first way. Ward Davis where having shown the world that he is a wonderful songwriter, confirms that he is one of the most important and valuable interpreters of American music and deserves the success that he is having and that he will surely have, thanks also to this record to listen and listen to until exhaustion.
Trex Willer by http://www.magazzininesistenti.it
(you can find original italian article at this link: http://www.magazzininesistenti.it/ward-davis-black-cats-and-crows-2020-di-claudio-trezzani/ )