It has been 12 years since I discovered the fabulous blues singer Thornetta Davis, and I will finally get to see her play at the Calgary International Blues Festival this summer.
I first heard Davis back in 1996, with the release of Sunday Morning Music. The Seattle-based grunge label Sub Pop Records was branching out at the time and was adventurous enough to sign this Detroit powerhouse. I was a DJ at “another” radio station at the time, and I played the disc to death. It was public radio, so I had the luxury of playing anything I wanted.
Davis’s voice blew me away. She was pure blues with a hot rock band. Her delivery blended so effectively with the band as they moved through blues, R&B, soul and rock ’n’ roll. It was only natural. Davis’s band, on Sunday Morning Music, was essentially Big Chief, a fellow Sub Pop band she had recorded with as a backup singer. It was a whole new world to my 1996 ears.
At a local record shop, I stumbled upon a copy of the disc and bought it on the spot. It lived in my CD player for months. I would hit replay a half-dozen times – after the lead-off track “Cry;” after the title track “Sunday Morning;” after Davis’s killer version of “You Haven’t Done Nothin’” by Stevie Wonder and, in particular, after “The Deal.” I was hard-pressed to get to the end of the 45-minute CD in less than an hour and a half, for all the repeating.
One of the best things about this business is discovering new artists. It is not often that someone you have never heard before completely consumes your listening habits. In 1996, for me, that artist was Thornetta Davis. It is truly a wonder that Davis has not become a household name. Her music has been used in The Sopranos, film soundtracks and TV commercials, she was in Kid Rock’s backing band for six years, has shared the stage with Bonnie Raitt, has collected 20 music awards and been inducted into the Detroit Music Hall of Fame.
These sort of accolades, you think, would be enough to propel any career. Still, more than 20 years into it, it seems it’s only the insiders, like the folks at the Calgary International Blues Festival – and me – who know the true greatness of this woman and her voice. And you, of course, now that you are checking her out online.
It was a sad music day, in about 2000, when my car window was smashed and a box of CDs was stolen. With that box went Sunday Morning Music.
Twelve short years after my Thornetta Davis epiphany, I will get to see her perform live. On Sunday, Aug. 5, I will be at the Shaw Millennium Park in downtown Calgary, grooving to the blues of this Detroit diva.
I hope she has CDs to sell. I hope I get to meet her.
I'll be ready to see Thornetta Davis, that's for sure.
on Jul 31, 2012