DAVIS COEN – These Things Shall Pass
Living Blues Magazine
Given that blues, country and gospel all basically share a street in the same musical neighborhood, it’s not a stretch for a blues artist to record the occasional gospel side, but on These Things Shall Pass, Mississippi singer-songwriter Davis Coen goes a step further by releasing an entire album of spiritually based songs.
Coen’s music is equal parts blues, country and Americana, and he’s managed to carve a nice niche for himself thanks in part to some high profile platforms that have featured his music. Coen contributed backing music to Martin Scorsese’s 2003 PBS special The Blues and to the reality TV show Lizard Lick Towing. He’s also a regular on the blues festival scene, having shared a stage with luminaries like Koko Taylor, R.L. Burnside and Bonnie Raitt.
The album—Coen’s tenth full-length release—is produced by Coen and Ryan Rogers and, among the 12 tracks, includes nine songs written or co-written by Coen. Rather than trying to simply blues-up songs from the hymnal, Coen delivers a gospel album that stays true to the genre while offering ample nods to his blues and country roots. He fuels every song with his loose and languid guitar, warm voice and eclectic influences and he presents a nice blend of styles, ranging from upbeat revival tent shakers to mournful ballads and confessional hymns.
The album kicks off with a soulful, mid-tempo spin on Willie Banks and the Messengers’ Working for Jesus, with Damein Wash and former Billy Joe Shaver guitarist Patrick McClary testifying with sweet backing vocals before downshifting to the spare, pedal steel driven, traditional-sounding original Stand By You.
Saint Christopher, a playful shuffle duet with McClary, is one of the CD’s strongest cuts and features inspired, Sunday worship service piano by Eric Carlton, who shines throughout the album. The foot stomper Jesus’ Hand, another vocal collaboration with McClary, could get the congregation dancing in the pews.
Perhaps in an effort to give them more gravitas, Coen sings traditional standards What a Friend We Have in Jesus and Old Rugged Cross with a deadpan delivery that leaves them wanting for a bit more emotion. In contrast, the original) You Are the Onliest (God I Know) is a superb testimonial with just piano and reverb guitar in which the occasional falsetto, used so effectively on previous Coen releases, makes a welcome appearance. The title track is pretty much straight up country and is laced with splendid pedal steel and Coen’s acoustic strumming.
Coen has done a nice job of crafting a gospel album on which both purists and casual listeners can find something to like.
Davis Coen – These Things Shall Pass
BMan’s Blues Report
May 9, 2017
I just had the opportunity to review the most recent release, These Things Shall Pass, from Davis Coen and it’s quite good. Mississippi based Coen, decided to put together a spiritual based release and this one is exceptional. Opening with Willie Banks and the Messengers’ Working For Jesus, Coen shows an exceptional feel for R&B style backed by Patrick McClary and Ryan Rogers on drums. With a country flavor, Stand By You is a cool track with smart vocals and lush steel guitar riffs. Pop rocker, Diamonds In Your Back Yard, has a simple melody, a catchy hook and warm vocal blending. A cool radio track. Saint Christopher has a real nice New Orleans kind of feel with great piano lines and vocal pairing. On the traditional, What A Friend We Have In Jesus, Coen plays it pretty much by the book but with a nice rhythm acoustic guitar and sweet slide echoes. Very nice. One of my favorites on the release, Shifting The Tide, has a strong soul feel and Coen’s vocals are dynamic. Acoustic piano gives the track a real earthiness and warm backing vocals cement the deal. Excellent!
Jesus’ Hand has a great revival feel, backed by McClary on vocal and a snappy drum line by Rogers. Another R&B style track, Lord, Let Me Do Right is particularly nice with arpeggiated chords and sweet vocals. The most direct gospel track, You Are The Onliest (God I Know) moderate guitar work but mostly acoustic piano cementing this track firmly on the ground. Very nice. Country blues (and title) track, These Things Will Pass, previously covered by Hank Snow and Johnny Cash is extremely effective. Super solid track. Wrapping the release is the traditional, Old Rugged Cross. Coen sells this track like it’s his own with acoustic guitar and mandolin adornment and accompaniment. A really strong closer to a particularly strong release.
Davis Coen – These Things Shall Pass
May 9, 2017
Here’s a varied CD of inspirational sacred music, covering a wide range of styles from traditional country spirituals ‘What A Friend We Have In Jesus’ and ‘Old Rugged Cross’ and the pure country cover of the title track (previously covered by Johnny Cash and Hank Snow) to the Memphis soul-inflections of former Jackson Southernaire Willie Banks & The Messengers’ ‘Working For Jesus’ and the vintage rhythm and blues sound of ‘Lord, Let Me Do Right’ via the almost honky-tonk sound of ‘Saint Christopher’, a nice vocal duet with Patrick McClary (as is also ‘Jesus’ Hand’). Davis Coen has many years of experience and is generally strongly rooted in the blues – he defines his approach as “contemporary country-blues” with all three elements finely balanced on this CD, though with a preference to the middle one maybe. He has a warm, rich, and convincing voice and is backed here by a bunch of fine Mississippi musicians including pedal steel guitarist Kell Kellum, mandolin player Jonny Ciaramitaro and several names associated with Jimbo Mathus and Fat Possum Records. This is rather a nice, good-natured set all round. – Norman Darwen
Davis Coen – These Things Shall Pass
Reflections In Blues
Southern tradition and life in general is very much spiritually oriented. Muddy Waters once stated “If you want to sing the Blues, you got to go to church.” A lot of that statement was based on the power and passion in Gospel music. While it is often claimed that blues is the Devil’s music, one would be hard put to find a single Southern blues performer who did not have their start in the church. The fact of the matter is that there is an underlying spirituality in the blues. Rather than the Music of God and the music of the Devil, I see two sides of the same coin.
Davis Coen is a man who is dedicated to the music he has lived with and grown to love for his entire life. Blues, country and spiritual music blend beautifully in Coen’s work. This latest release is dedicated to that music that permeated everyday life in the South. The album consists of classic gospel, tried and true American hymns and six original compositions. This is an album that was an inevitable addition to the discography of Davis Coen. He characterizes his style as ‘contemporary country-blues’…a modern culmination of the hodgepodge of musical influences absorbed from living in the Mid-Southern U.S. and continual touring. I always find that no one says it better than the artist.
These Things Shall Pass is a delightful piece of work…one more part of the man who is Davis Coen, singer/songwriter, bluesman, traveling minstrel, poet, philosopher and true southern gentleman. He has shared the bill with the best in the music business, toured the U.S. for 20 years or more, done a number of European tours and released nine full-length albums to date. With this, his tenth release, he joins a list of all-time greats who included spiritual music as part of their repertoire…including Hank Williams, Elvis, Georgia Tom a.k.a. Thomas Dorsey, Mississippi John Hurt, Son House and countless others. While it might be said that this could be his finest work to date, I would not want to put any of his past work in a bad light. Passionate and powerful, yet soothing and easy on the ear, This is an album deserving of a Blues Music Award…or even a Grammy. It is THAT good.
One more time, Davis Coen has hit the sweet spot. This one is a keeper. Even if gospel or spirituals are not your music of choice, I would recommend this one highly. – Bill Wilson
Davis Coen – Get Back In
Reflections in Blues
Davis Coen is essentially what they would have considered a traveling minstrel, writing and singing his songs based on his personal life experiences everywhere he went. He has opened for or performed with many of the greatest artists in the world and has won worldwide respect among his peers for his work, which is absolutely top-notch. Singer/songwriter, bluesman, storyteller and entertainer extraordinaire, Coen paints portraits in song that are warm and vivid, quite often staying with the listener long after the performance has ended. Whether working solo and acoustic or with the accompaniment of a band, Coen delivers small slices of his life with power and passion. Get Back In finds him working with the aid of a full band, and the result is nothing short of spectacular. Coen, who plays guitar, harmonica and vocals on this recording enlists the aid of Justin Showah on bass & background vocals, Brian Wells, Charles Gage & Ryan Rogers on drums, Eric Carlton on electric piano, organ and accordion, Robert Chaffe on piano and organ, Richard Alan Ford on pedal, lap steel and banjo, Johnny Ciaramitaro on mandolin and background vocals and Jessie Munson on violin.
Coen has a voice, well-suited for this particular style, warm and captivating, wrapping itself around the listener like the afghan knitted for you by your grandmother. What strikes me most about this, and so many of Coen’s works is the brutal honesty Davis writes what he knows, and he is an exceptional wordsmith. His blend of blues, country and soul is one of those things that has a timeless quality. Get Back In will, like the work of so many of the all-time greats, never get old. Davis Coen has earned his seat among the masters, an honor that is well deserved. The name of Davis Coen should honestly be a household word but, for now, it remains somewhat of a well kept secret. I am honored to be among those who have had the pleasure of hearing his work. Do yourself a favor and checkout the man and his work. You will not be disappointed. –Bill Wilson
Davis Coen – Blues Lights For Yours And Mine
Living Blues Magazine Review
Chances are you have heard South Carolina-based Davis Coen but didn’t know it. Coen has spent most of his young career in the background of some impressive blues productions. He contributed instrumental tracks to PBS’s landmark series The Blues and backed up the late, great Jess Mae Hemphill as well as opening for luminaries such as James Cotton, the North Mississippi All-Stars, Eddie Kirkland and others. With his fifth solo release, Blues Lights For Yours and Mine, Coen shows that he has the chops and talent to break out as a solo act. Coen’s latest release opens the Basement With The Blue Light, a Hammond B-3-driven toe-tapping original that introduces the listener straight off to his worldly sounding voice and well-timed guitar work. Coen’s voice is best served by his uptempo choices here from covers of Jack Of Diamonds to Don’t Let Your Deal Go Down, and even his bouncy cover of Professor Longhair’s Baby Let Me Hold Your Hand. Blues Lights For Yours And Mine in the end is a pleasant mix of originals and covers, as Coen convincingly showcases a variety of styles, able to deliver nice acoustic turns as well as down and dirty blues- just check out the moody, attitude-driven original Accelerated Woman for further proof.
– Dave Ruthenberg
Delta Cultural Center Review – August 2007
Helena, Arkansas by Thomas Jacques
CD: Davis Coen, “Ill Disposition.” (219 Records).
OK, sure, we’re a little biased. Davis dropped by our “Delta Sounds” radio program a couple of months ago, and was easily prodded by co-hosts Terry Buckalew and Sonny Payne into playing a couple of stunners.
Excitement about the forthcoming release of “Ill Disposition” was high then, and rightfully so.
Coen’s fourth album is a solid release from the hard-working and popular South Carolina-based bluesman, kicking off with the truly impressive self-penned lament of the street entertainer “Busker’s Blues.” It’s an appropriate opener, establishing both his persona as a working musician, as well as showing off his talents on as close to a contemporary pop setting as he comes on the disc. In addition to a smooth baritone in some ways similar to South Carolina’s late great Walter Hyatt (certainly of the busker tradition) and some grand picking that he makes sound easy, Coen’s skills as a songwriter stand out; many veteran acts could do worse than swiping “Busker’s Blues” from his notebook.
Not that his other numbers are too shabby either. “Good Conversation” delves further into the Americana traditions of old buskers from Steve Goodman to Dylan to Steve Forbert, and Coen can make himself right at home there. But Coen can also sit himself down and pen fiery Texas roadhouse blues (“Got to Hold Out,” aided and abetted by Joe Izzo’s rat-a-tat attack on drums) or above-par traditional blues (“Two-Timer’s Blues.”)
His taste in covers and the breadth and boldness of his choices reveal the road wisdom of a young artist who has already made a name for himself in Memphis, Clarksdale, festivals across America, Canada, Europe, Australia, and South America. The sway of “Lay Me a Pallet on Your Floor” and Elizabeth Cotten’s “Freight Train” provide opportunities to display his superb finger-picking and the type of demanding but quiet delivery that acoustic artists like Cotten and Mississippi John Hurt made seem so easy. More intriguing is his decision to cover a Junior Kimbrough song, “I’m in Love With You,” in a similar vein, rather than tackling one of the Mississippi juke joint legend’s trance-inducing stomping blues. The numbers he chooses to pick up the pace are also engaging. His takes on Allen Toussaint’s “Yes We Can Can” and John Lee Hooker’s “Mambo Chillun” are notable. One will not mistake Coen’s version of the former for Lee Dorsey nor his rendition of the latter for the brooding darkness or implied danger of Hooker, but he nonetheless knows how to work a groove and draw the dancers out onto the floor. Coen finds the funk inside himself and adds some tasty licks. – Thomas Jacques
MUSIC-REVIEWER.COM , July 2007
Artist: Davis Coen
Title: ILL DISPOSITION
Label: 219 Records
Davis Coen’s fourth album is nothing short of a well-crafted blues gem. With a deep, clear, hollow voice, Coen leads the listener down country roads and Chicago streets with tunes that showcase a refreshing blend of innovation and respect for tradition. This is not rock pretending to be blues, or gussied-up road house music with no place to go: this is the real deal, and it’s real nice to hear. Coen’s been touring since he was a teenager and has opened for such blues greats as Junior Wells, James Cotton and Koko Taylor—wrote five of the tracks on the album, and played guitar on every one, in a style ranging from Delta slide to Southside Chicago electric.Within the label of solid blues, Coen works a wide range of styles, encompassing the near-R&B Busker’s Blues, the cool, black swamp-water groove of Something at My Feet, the traditional 12-bar Chicago Two Timer’s Blues, and the laid-back honky-tonk Good Conversation. On top of that Davis does a throw-down cover of the classic Kansas City, with some mesmerizing Delta slide; adds a gritty, unadorned solid-driving blues edge to Chuck Berry’s Let It Rock, and lends a sweet gumbo bop to John Lee Hooker’s Mambo Chillun, where he also tears off some respectable riffs on the harp.
If you’re a blues fan, you’ll want this CD. And if not, shame on you, and get back to school. ‘Nuff said.
Billtown Blues Association
Can’t Get There From Here
219 Records 2006
A nice slice of Americana, Can’t Get There From Here is nothing short of a beautiful piece of work. Singer, songwriter, great guitarist and extraordinary storyteller, Davis Coen manages to blow away the fog and tell it like it is. Folk, blues and country blend for a sound that is warm and comfortable as my old denim. Bottom line…Davis Coen is the real deal. Twenty-nine and based out of Charleston, South Carolina, Coen sings what he knows, directly from the heart. While better than half of the CD’s tunes were written by Coen, he manages to take possession of the well-chosen covers, giving them his own twist, while showing the utmost respect for the original authors. Davis shows a deep love and knowledge of the Blues. This is much more than a musical style: it is the essence of life. Nothing profound here, just life on life’s terms. This is real, real powerful and directly from the heart. It’s also easy on the ears. Who could ask for more? Can’t Get There From Here is about as good as it gets. If you’re looking for the latest fad, pass this one by. Davis Coen is here to stay. – Bill Wilson
Davis Coen – “Blues From the Get-Go” 2000
With only his acoustic guitar, harmonica, and voice – and a bassist and
drummer on a couple of tracks – Davis Coen Strikes an old-fashioned note.
Harking back to the traditional folk blues, he has produced a refreshing
album, thanks in large to his witty, sometimes R-rated lyrics. – PJK