Ethan Daniel Davidson (from the album Come Down Lonesome available on Seedsmen Co.) (by Chris Wheatley)
For songwriters of Ethan Daniel Davidson's calibre, these are sadly fertile times. Davidson is one of those musicians whose lack of public or commercial attention appears bewildering. Perhaps he is a man out of time; a master storyteller whose spectral sounds would have been right at home alongside Woody Guthrie, or as part of the 1960s/70s Greenwich Village Folk scene. Ethan Daniel Davidson is also a walking contradiction, the 'beatnik' son of a billionaire (the late Bill Davidson, industrial magnate and Detroit Piston's owner). Come Down Lonesome is Davidson's first full-length record since 2017s Crows. The album is produced by Davidson's wife, Gretchen Gonzales Davidson (of Detroit-based psychedelic rockers, Slumber Party) and Warren Defever (of experimental group His Name Is Alive). The nine tracks are a mixture of original compositions and 're-imaginings' of songs by Mississippi John Hurt, Bob Dylan and others.
Reverend Gary Davis' “Death Don't Have No Mercy” opens the album with a heavy, funereal foreboding, fully of fuzzy guitar and jolting hand-percussion. The track rumbles along like an old freight car through a dark and blighted land. Its remarkably spectral arrangement manages to sound both deep and chilling. Davidson sounds as if he is singing from, and to, the 'other side'. For all that, there's a strange kind of beauty to the song, which is coloured by mandolin tremolo and affecting harmonies. This track, like the entire album, walks a delicate tightrope between traditional-sounding folk-blues and modern adventurousness. Moreover, it walks that fine line with aplomb.
“Leaving Cheyenne” continues with a monochrome and eerie feel. Scattershot percussion and a good deal of sawdust grit punctuate what is, at its heart, another lovely composition, albeit one draped with dark and dusty shawls. Indeed, experiencing Come Down Lonesome is akin to seeing a beautifully composed black and white photograph of a strange, alluring and arresting landscape. The stark wonder of it all hits your ears well before you notice the lynching posts, dry wells, and bleached bones which decorate this somber vista.
Ethan Daniel Davidson is a true master of his craft. The highest compliment I can pay him is that his music is immediately recognizable and impossible to mistake. “Someday I'll Be Caught,” for example, is late-period Johnny Cash, blazing with brutal honesty, yet Davidson injects a subtle, Jazzy edge, with fizzing cymbals and jumping drums. Here too, floats a cloud of keys and chords, which drift and circle in the pale blue sky. These could be vultures or birds of paradise, demons or angels, and this at the heart of Davidson's talent. This music will be what you make it, and perhaps ultimately tells more about the listener than the artist.
Bob Dylan cover “I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine”, is harsh and abrasive; a texture of metallic scrapings melded to a lilting American ballad. “The Longest Train”, which features some fine banjo-playing, is unnervingly captivating. Davidson leads a chorus of harmonies like a will-o-the-wisp; a guiding sprite through treacherous terrain. Title track “Come Down Lonesome” drifts lazily through a pastel-coloured landscape of sliding guitars and rattling beads. The stalwart “I Washed My Hands in Muddy Water” closes out the album with just guitar and vocals. It is a heart-breaking rendition.
With Come Down Lonesome, Ethan Daniel Davidson bypasses politics and policies to speak to something more vital and inherent in the human soul. Listen to it by the fireside in deep winter's night. Listen to it in a sunny meadow at the heart of summer. Above all, simply listen. (Chris Wheatley)
Listen and buy the music of Ethan Daniel Davidson from AMAZON
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