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CD REVIEW -- Carl Davis Band


One Foot In, One Foot Out

212 Records

Carl Davis CD

By Linda Cain

As a wise man once said, “Some things in life just aren’t fair.”  Why Carl Davis isn’t rich and famous is one of those “things” that don’t seem justified.

Here’s a cat who has it all in the talent department: excellent, versatile and creative guitar skills, a smooth, honeyed tenor that can hit all those high notes, a killer band of musician’s musicians, and a talent for songwriting that is on a par with Motown’s best. Ladies, he’s easy on the eyes, and puts on an exciting live show, too.

But who has ever heard of Carl Davis, a blue collar dude from Chicago’s NW ‘burbs by day and a guitar stringer by night?  Perhaps that is why Davis titled his sophomore CD, One Foot In, One Foot Out.

Hopefully this outstanding disc will change all that, so Davis can name his third CD, Both Feet In.

“What You Say” is melodic, sweet Southern soul with a rhythmic, bouncy groove that will get you moving. The harmonious, catchy chorus dares the listener to NOT sing along. Davis’ vocals are irresistibly soulful and romantic, while his guitar playing has just the right amount of hooks to make this the most memorable song on the CD.

“Glad You’re My Girl,” written in a Motown vein, covers similar melodic territory. The bright, cheery romantic number displays Davis’ impressive vocal range, which is comparable to John Nemeth’s, another talented young, blue eyed soul singer.

As a tunesmith, Davis shines when writing about the ladies. His lyrics, which are never sappy, reveal stories of love in various stages -- from newfound romance to tales of lost love and yearning. “You had the cutest little giggle/ when I squeezed your thigh” is the kind of intimate detail that makes “Glad You’re My Girl” real-to-life.

“I” is a song that could be a huge hit for Jack Johnson, with its breezy reggae/calypso rhythms and hooky harmonies. :.“I...could never be…happy… with.. out you.”  Davis’ voice soars on the chorus as he impressively holds the notes and sends them sailing on a sea of choppy rhythms, with perfect percussive phrasing.

Davis shows the other side of the coin on the opening track “Lyin’ To Yourself,” about a sweet talkin’ female who knows how to reel in a sucker for love. “You said we were never/ I was stupid, girl/ and you were clever.” The band’s tight, funky grooves move the music along as the human drama unfolds, as told by Davis’ expressive voice. It’s a story song along the lines of Robert Cray’s early material.

If there’s a subject more universal than love, it’s got to be about coffee. “Java” is the band’s clever ode to the sacred bean that helps jump start many a morning. The loping music starts slowly as Davis lazily recites the rituals of rising for the day. The keyboards begin percolating, followed by a couple spicy guitar solos and slappin’ bass lines that will help open your eyes. Davis even sings into a megaphone to make certain you’re awake. The working man’s lyrics and imagery will have you craving a cup.

Davis is a bluesman at heart and he struts his guitar chops on “Tossin’ & Turnin,” opening the tune with a wailing solo. The band kicks in and moves things along with a swingy shuffle. Bill LeClair’s powerful organ plays call-and-answer to Davis’ guitar. Bassist Pete Skach and drummer Lenny Marsh lay down a steady groove. For a second solo, Davis positively makes his guitar speak, followed by a cool blues jam with the band that is over much too soon. It’s an exciting cut that has the feel of a live performance, rather than a studio track.

One Foot In, One Foot Out features two masterful instrumentals that showcase the Carl Davis Band’s versatility and ability to move, groove and jam. “Chase” is the appropriately titled upbeat number in which LeClair’s mighty, Billy Preston style organ plays tag with Davis’ fine guitar picking.  On the final number, “Twangaroo Daddio,” Davis slicks back his hair and hops into his pink Cadillac with the fins to pay homage to the King of Twang, Duane Eddy. Keyboardist LeClair takes the wheel for a spin that is reminiscent of Booker T. and the MG’s. Get out the fuzzy dice for this laid back retro ride.

One Foot In, One Foot Out clocks out with ten originals that are well-arranged, solid, eclectic tunes that leave the listener wanting more. Recorded at Chicago’s Rax Trax studio, the CD features high quality audio, production and engineering by Rick Barnes, who also plays percussion.

Here’s hoping destiny will treat Carl Davis, his music and his band with fairness. He is far too talented to remain obscure.

You can see the band’s schedule at:

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