Clarence “Bluesman” Davis – Shake It For Me
Music Maker Foundation
12 Tracks – 37 minutes
Clarence “Bluesman” Davis was born in Eutaw, Alabama on February 17, 1945.His father was a sharecropper on the former Gosa Plantation now called the Gosa Quarter. Clarence was one of twelve children, consisting of nine brothers and three sisters. He started playing the guitar after his Uncle James gifted a cousin a guitar, but the cousin had let it sit unused. Clarence was interested in and ultimately given the instrument although it needed strings. His family spent their days in the hot sun picking cotton for $2.50/day. Clarence said “if you were old enough to work, you did something.” Clarence worked in the cotton fields at age 10 to save $2.50 to buy strings for the guitar and immediately started playing it non-stop, frequently making his fingers so sore that he could not pick cotton.
Clarence listened to the sounds of Jimmy Reed, Lightnin’ Hopkins, and Muddy Waters on the family’s battery-operated radio. He emulated their music and slowly developed his own style further learning his instrument from many of the Delta blues performers. He became a one-man band playing his guitar while operating a bass pedal with his foot, a sound he acquired after watching a New Orleans musician performing with the instrument. His unique sound captured the attention of Music Maker Foundation executives after listening to recordings made by Davis. They brought him in to record, but his bass pedal had broken. They recorded him just with his electric guitar, but they found that the bass pedal added a missing piece of his sound. He was offered a new pedal, but he was not happy with the sound. His old pedal was a 1980 model that no longer had available parts, but a Peavey technician who repaired vintage equipment got it operational and Clarence’s full sound returned.
Today, the 74-year-old musician lives with his family in a home about three miles from his childhood home. Over the years he has performed with various gospel and blues groups, but found he enjoys playing his own music. In 1993, he retired from work and concentrated on playing his traditional country blues. He is a regular player at the various regional blues festivals including the Howlin’ Wolf Festival held in West Point, Mississippi. He represented the Gulf Coast Blues Society at the 2016 International Blues Challenge.
He opens the album with the traditional “Not Your Fool”. His rugged voice mixes well with the rhythmic nature of the song. He gets the room jumping with “Gotta Rock It”. His then tells a story of his history on “Goosa Farm”, noting that “It was rough, it was tough”. He says he wanted to get a “Hoochie Mama” who has “no pride, no shame”.
He gets the room rocking again on Howlin’ Wolf’s “Shake It for Me”. Jock Webb adds harmonica to “Born in the Country” as Clarence again talks about his early life. He then offers a more modern tale on “Facebook Blues” as he tells her to keep off the website.
Jimmy Reed’s “Shame, Shame, Shame” is next up with Jock again providing harmonica accompaniment. That is followed by Sonny Boy Wiliamson’s “Good Morning Little School Girl” and Lightnin’ Hopkins’ “Mojo Hand”. He notes that he is “Just Gettin’ Good” on a mostly instrumental cut again accompanied by Jock’s harmonica. The album concludes with Mississippi Fred McDowell’s “Shake’ em on Down”, a live cut recorded at GIP’s that features a full band including a significant organ run rounding out a solid sound.
Clarence’s weathered voice and expert guitar work are constantly intriguing. It is certainly a top-notch effort from a great musician that should be better known in the blues community.