Although I do LOVE the blues, it’s not in my nature to rave wildly about music in general. That being said, Trouble Makin’ Man, the latest release by up-and-coming Chicago blues artist Eric “Guitar” Davis & The Troublemakers, is my favorite new blues CD of the year!!!
First, a bit of background: Eric “Guitar” Davis hails from the south side of Chicago (a historically fertile ground for some of the best Chicago blues). He started his music career as a drummer, backing the likes of Junior Wells, Lefty Dizz, and other Chicago blues legends. A chance encounter with Buddy Guy at a local club resulted in Guy showing Davis his first chord on the guitar. The rest, they say, is history. Davis currently plays locally in Chicago and around the world with his band, The Troublemakers, a tight blues combo with piano/keyboards, bass, drums, and two guitars.
I first saw Eric “Guitar” Davis play at Buddy Guy’s Legends. In a live setting, Davis is a compelling bluesman, playing with dynamics in his singing and guitar playing (incorporating tricks like distortion and occasionally singing away from the microphone), and walking through and interacting directly with his audiences. I bought his first CD (2007's Here Comes Trouble) off the bandstand, which only hinted at his live charisma. Well, I’m happy to report that his second CD, Trouble Makin’ Man, is more representative of his stage performance!
The title track kicks off the record, and as Davis himself sings, you’re “gonna have some real big fun” throughout this album. “Trouble Makin’ Man” is a uptempo funky tune, that will get your hips movin’ and your head shakin’ with his outstanding guitar soloing. Even the slower, introspective songs on this CD sound exciting and make you want to bob your head and/or shake your hips to the music! There are elements of contemporary R&B in several of the songs here (including “Love Song” and “You’re Goin’ Down”), but they never sound like attempts to crossover to more mainstream audiences; it’s simply Eric “Guitar” Davis playing the blues as he himself feels them in the 21st century. I particularly enjoy the subtly Latin feel of “You’re Goin’ Down”, easily one of my favorite cuts on this CD. For fans of classic blues sounds, Davis still delivers the goods, with a New Orleans feel on “Ew-Wee” and a gospel-tinged cover of Jimmy Burns’ “No Consideration”. Ronnie Baker Brooks, another great contemporary Chicago Blues artist, appears in a few spots on this album, specifically co-writing and co-producing “Days Of My Life” (a fine R&B-tinged blues track) and appearing on “Dolla Queen”. There are also some lively spoken-word moments on “Dolla Queen” and “I Met a Little Girl”, which add to the overall fun, feel-good atmosphere of Trouble Makin’ Man.
I can’t find enough adjectives to describe how much I love this album. Start to finish, this has to be my favorite blues CD of 2011! For more information, check out ericguitardavis.com.