Canada's premier blues venue the Red Onion showcased two of Canada's top blues performers on September 29th. Morgan Davis a 2004 Juno Award (Canada's Grammy) winner (Painkiller was Blues Album of the Year) electrified the crowd with spine tingling and note bending guitar riffs. Among the members of the band backing him this evening was drummer Duris Maxwell one of the original members of the Powder Blues Band (1979-85). Maxwell’s other musical adventures over the years have included performing with David Foster, Heart, Jefferson Airplane and the legendary Jimi Hendrix.
As I chatted with Maxwell prior to the band’s first set he spoke passionately about playing with honesty and integrity. He vehemently made the point that if you aren’t investing everything you have in your performance then the audience will know.
Davis has taken the same passionate approach with his songwriting and playing and it led to his penning "Why’d You Lie" (Ready To Play-1982). "Why’d You Lie" later became a blockbuster hit for Colin James.
Bill Eaglesham’s deep grooves on bass and Ross Casat’s stirring chops on the keys comped the musical prowess of Davis and Maxwell. Throughout the evening the audience spontaneously showed their appreciation.
Davis’ rich deep vocals were evident from the opening number "Let the Good Times Roll" and continued through Albert King’s Mississippi Delta vibe "I’ll Play the Blues for You". Whereas with artists much younger than Davis you begin to notice cracks, wear and tear on their voices after ten or more years of singing, Davis’ vocal chords remain unblemished. That is a remarkable feat when you consider he has been playing the blues for more than thirty-six years.
Davis’ deft fingers coaxed emotive wails, laments and laughter from his six strings. Throughout the evening he teased many different voices from his fretboard including the seductive and in your face notes from Johnny ‘Guitar’ Watson’s "The Gangster of Love".
Maxwell’s backbeat set the stage for Davis’ guitar licks that gave a swagger to "Stagger Lee". Davis and Eaglesham’s theatrical performance turned in on this historically based ballad injected life into the tune originally recorded in 1928 by John Hurt. Numerous artists recorded the song from the time it was first authored in 1910 by John Lomax but none made it as famous as Lloyd Price did in 1959.
As Davis’ set drew to a close he revived the Motown hit "You Better Shop Around".