The Kitchen Party - Folk and Roots Music on WIUS AM 1570 ( Bloomington, IN

Saturday, September 18, 2004

Rachael Davis- A New Songcatcher?

I had the pleasure of ending tonight's Lotus Festival by listening to an enormously talented young singer from Boston named Rachael Davis.

Her voice could have come out of the movie Songcatcher. It was that southern mountain sound which is pretty straight, high and lyrical. And yet, she crooned, she scatted, and sang like a jazz diva at times. (Are you listening, American Idol?) For example, she sang a soulful version of "All of Me," a cappella, after relating to the audience a story of how her first CD her dad gave her was a recording of the Ella Fitzgerald Songbook. (I think that was one of my first too). Discographic searching will have to wait for another day.

Her rendition of "Pretty Saro" was quicker than I'm used to, but it brought the desperateness and pathetique of the characters, along with the sorrow and trouble-in-mind more generally associated with interpretations of the song done by such artists as Iris DeMent. I was impressed with her version of the "Cuckoo Bird" as well as "Shady Grove." "Shady Grove" is one of those Appalachian songs that everyone sings, but it goes by so quick that you can't even make sense of the lyrics. That changed for me once I heard Michael Johnathon's version.

Back to Davis, who was accompanied by a fine guitarist named Brett Hartenbach...Here is a young musician who's not only a good singer, but one that has the potential to really make it. She knows what her voice can do, has great dynamic contrasts, can belt and wail, yet hold back when she needs to. She can really breathe life into a song through dramatization and phrasing. Less is usually more, and silences can be very important in telling a story. I think Rachael knows this. Also, she has great musical intuition, a high wiry soprano voice that won't quit, and it doesn't hurt that she knows how to use a microphone.

It turned out that I was seated next to her mother and father, who had both sung to her as a child. She named some of her musical influences which included the Carter Family, Bob Dylan, Joel Mabus, and John McCutcheon. This is a young folkie who's going places...Look out Nickel Creek!

That's all for me for tonight. I also saw Väsen and Susan McKeown, but I'll write about them later. I was looking forward to seeing the Irish band Kila, but they got on stage late, so I'll see their act tomorrow night! Buenos noches!


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