Album Review

David Davis & The Warrior River Boys - Self-Titled

David Davis & The Warrior River Boys - self-titled

Alabama mandolin player David Davis has been leading the Warrior River Boys for a couple of decades, but it's been a long while since they were in the studio. For fans drawn to the genre only in the past few years, then, the group's Rebel debut will serve as an introduction. For those who favor a hard-edged, traditional sound, it's likely to be a welcome one. Both instrumentally and vocally, Davis' approach shows a distinct Bill Monroe influence, but he favors a broader range of material. Story songs such as Tommy Freeman's surly meditation on retirement, "Today's The Day I Get My Gold Watch & Chain", and Bill Grant's melodramatic account of murder and retribution, "In The Shade Of The Big Buffalo", account for a considerable part of the disc, with Bill Castle's Civil War story "Coat Of Southern Gray" standing out for its deft construction and classic melody. Though the repertoire is strongly traditional in sound, most of the songs are new (at least in bluegrass terms) or relatively rare. Even the two oldest songs, the Kelleys' "Leavin' Tennessee" and Roy Acuff's yodeling showpiece "Freight Train Blues", fall into the category of neglected gems. The current lineup -- banjoist Josh Smith, bassist Marty Hays, guitarist Jeff Griffy, and fiddler Owen Saunders (who has done stints with James King and Doyle Lawson) -- makes a solid but for the most part secondary contribution, though Hays' two vocal leads and Smith's stout playing deserve special mention. In the end, though, it's pretty much Davis' show.