John Davis | Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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John Davis


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When a man steps up to the microphone with an acoustic guitar, he carries not just the instrument but a heavy bundle of preconceptions. If he's black, it's assumed he'll play the blues--ever tried to find Ted Hawkins's records in the R & B bin, where they belong?--and if he's white, he must be a folksinger. But for some time now, John Davis, a librarian from Cambridge, Massachusetts, and the taller half of MTV stars the Folk Implosion, has managed to leaven that load with unexpected elements of punk, pop, and poetry recitation; he even nods to the Ramones in the title of his second (and better) album, Leave Home (Communion). Like the Ramones, Davis has a talent for making the most of bare essentials, but rather than overpowering listeners with bludgeoning electric riffs, he lures them in with overwhelming quiet. His most elaborate studio creations are sparsely arranged for voice and one or two instruments, and his home recordings are often flickering holograms of tape hiss and whispered speech. His guitar playing veers from relatively conventional strummed accompaniment with slide flourishes a la John Fahey to jagged, percussive punctuation, while his vocals slip from breathy, barely-there singing to dreamy recitation and the subject skips from sex ("I'll Burn") to cars ("Jeep Cherokee") to baseball ("Knocked out of the Park"). He opens for kindred spirit John Darnielle, aka the Mountain Goats. Saturday, 10 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western; 773-276-3600. Bill Meyer

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo by Tamara Bonn.

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