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Interviews D-F

On this page: Guy Davis, Tom Doughty, Mike Dowling, Emily Druce & Steve Jones, Kent DuChaine, Mary Flower, Rick Franklin & Russ Green, Perry Foster...

May 2004, October 2007      GUY DAVIS

Read the interview!

"A singer and guitarist in the rural mould of Robert Johnson and Mississippi John Hurt, he has got a voice like Howlin' Wolf dipped in honey and is also an enchanting storyteller. He is fabulous!" -The Scotsman

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He's a musician, composer, actor, director, and writer.  But most importantly, Guy Davis is a bluesman. RA The blues permeates every corner of Davis' creativity.

 Throughout his career, he has dedicated himself to reviving the traditions of acoustic blues and bringing them to as many ears as possible through the material of the great blues masters, African American stories, and his own original songs, stories and performance pieces.

 His influences are as varied as the days.  Musically, he enjoyed such great blues musicians as Blind Willie McTell (and his way of story telling), Skip James, Manse Lipscomb, Mississippi John Hurt, Elizabeth Cotton, and Buddy Guy, among others.  It was through Taj Mahal that he found his way to the old time blues.  He also loved such diverse musicians as Fats Waller and Harry Belafonte.

 His writing and storytelling have been influenced by Zora Neale Hurston, Garrison Keillor, and by Laura Davis (his one hundred and four year-old grandmother).

 Davis' creative roots run deep.  Though raised in the New York City area, he grew up hearing accounts of life in the rural south from his parents and especially his grandparents, and they made their way into his own stories and songs. Davis taught himself the guitar (never having the patience to take formal lessons) and learned by listening to and watching other musicians. One night on a train from Boston to New York he picked up finger picking from a nine-fingered guitar player.

 Throughout his life, Davis has had overlapping interests in music and acting.  Early acting roles included a lead role in the film "Beat Street" opposite Rae Dawn Chong and on television as ‘Dr. Josh Hall’ on "One Life to Live."   Eventually, Davis had the opportunity to combine music and acting on the stage.   He made his Broadway musical debut in 1991 in the Zora Neale Hurston/Langston Hughes collaboration "Mulebone" which featured the music of Taj Mahal. 

 In 1993 he performed Off-Broadway as legendary blues player Robert Johnson in "Robert Johnson: Trick the Devil"  He received rave reviews and became the 1993 winner of the Blues Foundation's "Keeping the Blues Alive Award” presented to him by Robert Cray at the W.C. Handy Awards ceremony.

 Looking for more ways to combine his love of blues, music, and acting, Davis created material for himself.  He wrote "In Bed with the Blues: The Adventures of Fishy Waters" -- an engaging and moving one man show. The Off-Broadway debut in 1994 received critical praise from the New York Times and the Village Voice

 Davis' writing projects have also included a variety of theatre pieces and plays.  "Mudsurfing" a collection of three short stories, received the 1991 Brio Award from the Bronx Council of the Arts. "The Trial: Judgement of the People" an anti-drug abuse, one-act play that toured throughout the New York City shelter system, was produced Off-Broadway in 1990.  Davis also arranged, performed and co-wrote the music for an Emmy award winning film, "To Be a Man."   In the fall of 1995, his music was used in the national PBS series, "The American Promise."

 Davis also performed in a theatre piece with his parents, actors/writers Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee, entitled "Two Hah Hahs and a Homeboy," staged at the Crossroads Theatre in New Brunswick, NJ in the spring of 1995.  The show combined material written by Davis and his parents, with music, African American Folklore and history, as well as performance pieces by Hurston and Hughes.  Of Davis' performance, one reviewer observed that his style and writing "sounds so deeply drenched in lost black traditions that you feel that they must predate him.  But no, they don't.  He created them."

 In the past few years, Davis has concentrated much of his efforts on writing and performing music.  In the fall of 1995, he released his Red House records debut "Stomp Down Rider" an album that captured Davis in a stunning live performance.  

 Davis' next album, "Call Down the Thunder" paid tribute to the blues masters, but leaned more heavily towards his own powerful originals.  The electrifying album solidified Davis' position as one of the most important blues artists of our time. Acoustic Guitar magazine called it one of the thirty essential CDs from a new generation of performers.

 Davis' third Red House disc, "You Don't Know My Mind" explodes with passion and rhythm, and displays Davis' breadth as a composer and powerhouse performer.  It was chosen as ‘Blues Album of the Year’ by the Association For Independent Music (formerly NAIRD).  The "San Francisco Chronicle" gave the CD four stars, adding, "Davis' tough, timeless vocals blow through your brain like a Mississippi dust devil."

 Charles M. Young summed up Davis' own take on the blues best when he wrote his review in "Playboy", "Davis reminds you that the blues started as dance music.  This is blues made for humming along, stomping your foot, feeling righteous in the face of oppression and expressing gratitude to your baby for greasing your skillet."

 Guy’s fourth album, “Butt Naked Free”, was produced by John Platania, former guitarist for Van Morrison.  In addition to John on electric guitar, the album included other musician friends, it included musician friends such as Levon Helm (The Band), multi-instrumentalist, Tommy “T-Bone” Wolk (Hall & Oates, Carly Simon, ‘Saturday Night Live’ Band), drummer Gary Burke (Joe Jackson), and acoustic bassist, Mark Murphy (Walt Michael & Co., Vanaver Caravan).  The musicians all performed “Waitin’ On the Cards to Fall” from this album on the Conan O’Brien show.

 The latest album is “Give in kind”, and was also produced by John Platania.  Music critic Dave Marsh wrote,Davis never loses sight of the blues as good time music, the original forum for dancing on top of one's sorrows. Joy made more exquisite, of course, by the sorrow from which it springs.”

 Guy has contributed songs on a host of ‘Tribute’ and ‘Compilation albums’, including collections on bluesmen, Charley Patton and Robert Johnson, a Putamayo Records collection called,  “From Mali to Memphis”, for tradition-based rockers like the Grateful Dead, songwriters like Nick Lowe, and for Bob Dylan’s 60th birthday, and alongside performers like Bonnie Raitt, Jackson Browne, and Bruce Springsteen for a collection of songs written by his friend, legendary folksinger, ‘Uncle’ Pete Seeger.

 Most recently Guy had the honour of appearing in the PBS special on Jazz and Blues artist, Howard Armstrong.

 It is Guy Davis that you’ll see on an interactive video display at the Delta Blues Museum in Clarksdale, Mississippi, demonstrating and explaining the various Blues guitar styles.

He’s also very proud to be involved with a project produced by his friend Larry Long, called “Teaching Tolerance”.  It’s a CD collection of enriching songs combined together to help teach diversity and understanding.  It will be distributed in February 2004 by the Southern Poverty Law Center, and sent to every school in the country

For more information about Guy Davis check out the  website at www.guydavis.com

Oct 2004, Sept 2005         TOM DOUGHTY

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Tom first started playing the guitar when he was a child. Apart from being shown a few chords by his elder brother, Tom was self-taught. He initially, learnt his craft through interpreting what he heard on records and later through watching other guitar players. As an early teenager, Tom had become an accomplished fingerstyle guitarist and recalls playing the Davey Graham tune ‘Angie' at a school concert. He was, and still is avid listener and admirer of other musicians. Early influences included Renbourn and Jansch, Martin Carthy, Nic Jones, Big Bill Broonzy and Led Zeppelin.

In a road traffic accident in 1974, Tom permanently became a disabled person. His impairment also affected his fingers and prevented him from playing music. He recalls the frustration of creating music in his head but not being able to hear it in the air. With the tenacity and creativity of a new explorer, finding ways to work around his limits of hand movement, Tom has discovered how to return to being a musician. He has developed absolutely new and unique techniques for playing slide guitar, with a sensitive touch and full of feeling.

So started a continual journey to return to the passion that is his craft. Tom can truly be described as having a unique method of playing lap slide guitar. This man's music is free again, full of expression and range , and makes addictive listening. Tom has recently released his first Album, ‘The Bell' to critical acclaim and is playing regularly again in public. He was  featured on The Paul Jones show on Radio 2 in December 2003, but with so much music inside him, defining  him as an Acoustic Blues guitarist is too small to convey the range of moods and styles in his playing. Established slide guitarists such as Debashish Bhattacharya and Bob Brozman are fans of Tom's music, finding it both expressive and refreshingly original.

"Tom plays both 6 - and 12-string acoustic guitars, as well as National Tricone and wooden-bodied Dobro -type resophonic instruments, so the variety of sounds mean there is no danger of listening fatigue. He also sings in a very natural voice that is very pleasing on the ear. It has given me a lot listening pleasure over the festive season. I can recommend it wholeheartedly to all acoustic fans, and especially those who, like me, are particularly enamoured of slide guitar playing." Michael Prince, Blues in Britain

For more information about Tom Doughty  check out the  website at www.tomdoughty.com    

October 2003, April 2005, April 2007       MIKE DOWLING

Read the BFBR email interview!

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“Whether he's playing bottleneck, fingerpicking the blues, strumming a swing chord solo, or singing a country classic, he injects feeling into every word and note." -- Acoustic Guitar

A professional career that's spanned four decades has taken Mike from sideman, session player, and bandleader, to solo performer and composer of amazing versatility. Firmly grounded in authenticity and possessed of a musical soul as old as the vintage instruments he favours RA, Mike draws inspiration from deep in the musical bag of American roots guitar styles. Influenced by traditional Piedmont style fingerpickers like Mississippi John Hurt and swing jazz legends like the great George Barnes, Mike's developed a style, uniquely his own, that he translates fluently to arch top, flat top, and resonator guitars alike.

Mike grew up in central Wisconsin and early in his career in the Midwest he caught the attention of mandolinist Jethro Burns, jazz violin great Joe Venuti, and master fiddler Vassar Clements. In the 1970's he worked and recorded with Burns and Venuti in Chicago and joined Vassar's first touring band for a stint on the road. Clements calls him simply, "One of the finest guitar players there is, anywhere." Long respected among his peers as a truly "tasty" player, Mike can be heard on dozens of recordings including Clements' 1979 Grammy-nominated "Nashville Jam". 

In 1995, after years of playing with various ensembles, Mike launched a solo performance career, and with the release of his first solo album, the critically acclaimed "Swamp Dog Blues", he began headlining at concerts and festivals in the U.S. and abroad. Armed with an engaging voice, self-deprecating wit, and an arsenal of elegant interpretations of old blues, swing, ragtime, and original tunes it didn't take long for Mike to capture the hearts of acoustic music fans throughout the world. 

In 1996, buoyed by his success as a soloist, Mike packed up his guitars and his fishing gear and moved from Nashville, Tennessee to a little mountain town in north-western Wyoming where he and his wife opened "Wind River Guitar", a unique live-in school for private master instruction. In 2001 they launched the "Greater Yellowstone Music Camp" for acoustic blues and swing in picturesque Dubois, Wyoming.

Mike continues to write and record from his Wyoming retreat and maintains a busy tour schedule playing concerts and festivals, and teaching at a variety of guitar camps and clinics. He's been a frequent guest on public radio's "A Prairie Home Companion", and his newest release, "Two of a Kind", is an instrumental album of guitar duets he recorded with PHC house band member, Pat Donohue.

During a ten year stint in Nashville Mike had a string of songwriting successes, including tunes recorded by such artists as the Nashville Bluegrass Band, Emmylou Harris, Tim O’Brien, Kathy Mattea, Claire Lynch and Del McCoury. He and Jan wrote a #1 hit for Canadian country artist George Fox and have four tunes listed in “The Decade’s Top 200 Bluegrass Songs” as compiled by Bluegrass Unlimited (Jan. 2000). One of those tunes “Backtrackin’, written by Mike and recorded by the Nashville Bluegrass Band, was nominated Bluegrass Song of the Year in 1994 by the International Bluegrass Music Association. 

Since leaving Nashville Mike has focused on writing instrumental music for the guitar. His compositions and arrangements have been featured in the pages of Fingerstyle Guitar, Acoustic Guitar, and Flatpicking Guitar magazines, and his haunting arrangement of a Civil War era melody he calls “Rosalie” is included on the Acoustic Guitar compilation CD, "Habits of the Heart".

For more information about Mike Dowling  check out the  website at  www.mikedowling.com

 Sept 2002 & July 2003        EMILY DRUCE

Read the BFBR email interview!

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Druce and Jones have been performing as a duo for the last year, and their album Songs From The Silver Band Room reflects the rich mix of hot blues and country flavours they have been taking around the UK. The duo creates a fresh acoustic sound - whether on arrangements of covers from the 30’s and 40’s or on their own strong original material. 

After their appearance on the Isle of Man at Bushy’s Big Wheel Blues festival the organisers wrote:

“Emily Druce and Steve Jones’ roots style blues playing is a seriously classy bit of finger picking quality, with wonderful slide to go…. every note, every overtone and, of course Emily’s voice, was a treat to be savoured”

They have been enthusiastically received at mainstream folk festivals such as the Sidmouth International Festival, and proved equally popular at leading blues events in Burnley and The Great British R&B Festival in Colne.

“Druce has always been much more than just a blues act, and the partnership with Jones has broadened things still further…. Songs From The Silver Band Room is a fine album that gets even better with repeated plays” Blues in Britain

Emily Druce’s two solo albums (The Guilt Trip and New Day) both received widespread praise in the press and airplay on Radio 2’s Bob Harris, Mike Harding and Paul Jones shows. The albums have gained her a reputation as the UK’s top acoustic blues woman and “a singer/songwriter to keep an ear out for” Froots Emily performed regularly on the live circuit after  the release of her debut album in 2000, playing established London venues (Dingwalls, The Borderline and The 12 Bar Club) and a wide variety of clubs, arts centres and festivals nationwide. She opened for for well-established artists from the blues and folk worlds alike - Odetta, Lonnie Donegan, Woody Mann & Bob Brozman, Vin Garbutt, Dr Feelgood, James Fagan & Nancy Kerr, Holmes Brothers, Mary Coughlin, Errol Linton, Chris Wood & Andy Cutting, Lindisfarne and the late Isaac Guillory amongst them. At her debut at the The Borderline in London Time Out described her as 'a major new talent' and the first UK female acoustic blues singer/ guitarist of note since the late Jo Anne Kelly.

Wherever Druce and Jones play, the sensitively arranged interpretations of blues classics and powerful self-penned songs RA are enjoyed by admirers of both blues and folk, crossing barriers to appeal to all who enjoy great songs, beautifully sung and arranged. 

  For more information about Emily Druce check out the  website at www.emilydruce.co.uk  

     KENT DuCHAINE

July 2002, June 2003, July 2004, Oct 2005, June 2006, Feb 2007

"Kent sends me back to my early days" - Johnny Shines, 1991  

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Kent has played RA with blues greats such as BB King, John Lee Hooker, Howlin' Wolf and Albert King, and picked up some things from them. Robert Johnson's friend and associate Johnny Shines, himself a notable early bluesman, was DuChaine's link to where it all began and became the younger man's mentor playing over 200 gigs together.

"Those old guys and gals always make it a good time when they perform, that's what I learned. I try to keep the older music that I play as fresh as I can and try to express all the feelings that they put in there and throw in a few of my own. Just carrying on that tradition is great. I like to think that maybe I am a bit of a connection to the past."

Kent's a true nomad who has wandered the world playing the blues since 1968. For the last 18 years he's travelled mostly with just "Leadbessie" along for company. She's a beat-up old National steel guitar kitted out with extra heavy strings to cope with his ferociously powerful style. "We've played almost 5000 shows together and I'm pretty attached to her," he says affectionately.

For more information about Kent DuChaine check out the  website at www.kentduchaine.com 

April 2005, July 2007     MARY FLOWER

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Mary Flower has been one of America’s finest blues and roots music performers for over thirty years. A singer with a resonant, sultry voice, a consummate fingerstyle guitarist, and a master of lap slide guitar, she draws on traditional, contemporary, and original material that remains true to the power of the blues. She is also a highly respected teacher of blues styles, and teaches as well as performs internationally. 

Mary began her performing career as a high-school student growing up in Indiana. After moving to Denver in the early seventies, she joined singing partner Katy Moffatt to tour the country on the National College Coffeehouse circuit, then settled down to a local career as a favourite Colorado performer. Two kids and twenty years later, she quickly achieved national prominence when she once more took to the road.

In those regional days before her national breakthrough, Mary worked as a soloist and with various artists including Randy Handley, Pat Donohue, and the Mother Folkers, and won numerous "Best of..." awards from the local press. Mary also taught guitar at the Denver Folklore Center Music School and its successor, the Swallow Hill Music School, was thrice named Colorado’s "Best Folkie," and received a prestigious songwriting fellowship from the Colorado Council on the Arts and Humanities.

The turning point in Mary Flower’s breakout from a local career began with her appointment, in 1993, as visiting guest artist during Blues Week at Augusta Heritage Center in Elkins, West Virginia. She’s been back nearly every year since. It was her experience at Augusta, one of the nation’s leading centers for preserving roots music, that inspired her to go back on the road in pursuit of a very-quickly-found national career.

Now Mary performs regularly at blues festivals throughout the country and abroad, for blues societies, and in other concert venues. Focus of a feature article in Fingerstyle Guitar magazine (August, 2000), she was also prize-winner at the National Fingerpicking Guitar Championship in 2000— the second woman in 27 years to place in the top three! She now has four CDs to her name, and looks forward to further developing her catalogue

Continuing her parallel career as a teacher throughout the U.S. and abroad, she has conducted guitar and Blues In the Schools workshops for elementary and high schools, at guitar camps and festivals, and for blues societies— often hand-in-hand with concert appearances. She has also appeared as panellist at the Handy Awards in Memphis. She has also recorded two instruction videos, Fingerstyle Ragtime Guitar and Fingerstyle Blues in E, published by Lamb Productions. Mary also continues to perform and teach privately when she’s not on the road.

Whether in Denver, Memphis, Europe, or Canada, Mary’s audiences have a lot to admire. There’s her strong, clear-voiced, unaffected singing and her virtuoso instrumental skills, both with regular guitar (her greatest love is obviously the Piedmont blues style) and lap-style slide guitar. And there is her songwriting ability that, unconstrained by vocal or instrumental limitations, lets her bare her feelings and share her thoughts about family, life on the road and romance. Her lyrics reflect a life lived and pondered, rich and full, expressed in ways poignant, wry and sly, and always straight from the heart.

For more information about Mary Flower check out the  website at www.maryflower.com 

April 2007   RICK FRANKLIN & RUSS GREEN

Rick Franklin from Washington, D.C., has been playing and singing the Blues at local festivals and community events, as well as various clubs and cafes, both in and around the Washington, DC area for the past twenty six years.  Rick's musical style of blues is identified with such legendary players like Blind Blake, Blind Boy Fuller along with contemporary players like the late John Jackson.  In addition to solo performances, Rick also performs 1920s and 1930s blues and ragtime with the popular acoustic blues trio Franklin, Harpe, and Usilton. This trio performs blues and ragtime in the Memphis and St. Louis guitar-duet style.  

Russ Green was born in Chicago in 1967.  He is a great singer and powerful harp player.  His first ambition was to play guitar like Jimi Hendrix; unable to afford this he picked up the harmonica.  The sounds he heard in his head came to a realization when he first heard the harp player Sugar Blue in 1992.  After a 3-year stay as a film student in Seattle, Russ returned to Chicago and again found himself searching out Sugar Blue.  This time they became fast friends and Russ began to learn the technique of his style.  Russ took this education and created his own creative individual style.  Russ currently plays in Chicago with various musicians while he readies his own music career.  

   May 2004, October 2007     PERRY FOSTER

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"I was turned onto the blues by a guy named Perry Foster" Robert Plant

"...magnificent, thundering 12 string" Blue print

Perry’s interest in the blues began when he heard recordings of Big Bill Broonzy, Leadbelly and Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee back in the 50’s and bought himself a 12-string guitar. During the 60’s he was associated with the Yardbirds and also formed his Delta Blues Band with a young Robert Plant on vocals & washboard!

He played with sleepy John Estes, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee and was the minder for Sonny Boy Williamson on his visits to the UK in the early 1960's.

He took up music again professionally in 1989 at the 1st Burnley Blues Festival and has appeared on many television and radio programmes. He has regularly played at many major UK, European and US Festivals and gigs.

Perry’s full-blooded, gritty vocals and driving slide guitar create an atmosphere redolent of the old-time bluesmen, stamped with his own inimitable personality and irrepressible Black Country humour.