Charleston songwriter and guitarist Davis Coen — a dedicated player who feels "the only true blues are the country blues" — regularly gets major props for his expressive and authentically bluesy rhythm guitar work and slide-lead style. However, listening to "Basement with the Blue Light" — the lead-off track on his new studio album Blue Lights for Yours and Mine — reminds how rich and soulful his singing can be. Coen may appear to be another scruffy, white guitar-slinger musician in the local scene, but he wails like a grizzled veteran. Recorded by Chris Wimberley at Nightsound Studios in Carrboro, N.C. and mixed at the legendary Ardent Studios in Memphis, the 11-song Blue Lights sounds more like a well-seasoned, full-band effort than last year's groovy, 13-song collection Ill Disposition.
With cool drum work from longtime Coen sideman Joe Izzo — and additional organ from Lance Ashley, bass from Ben Palmer, and piano from Trevor Coen and Adrian Duke — things roll along at a leisurely pace. There's plenty of New Orleans flavor in the originals "Mambo Jumbo" and "New Shoe Blues," and a heavy dose of country blues in swingin' renditions the ragtime-y "Don't Let Your Deal Go Down" and "Lordy Lord." He emulates the almost catty "lovin' man" vibe in a version of Professor Longhair's "Baby Let Me Hold Your Hand."
As with his previous efforts, Coen finds a funky spot in the balanced blend of R&B, Southern blues, and gospel styles, whether as a solo singer/guitarist, as a duo with Izzo, or with a full-band juke joint set-up. He sounds like a man doing what comes naturally. Blue Lights is one of the strongest Lowcountry blues sides of the year. (www.daviscoen.com)
Davis Coen is spending most of his summer playing gigs in the Tennessee towns of Memphis, Jackson, and Dover.