Finger pickin’ good: David Davis & the Warrior River Boys here next weekBluegrass music can take a lot of forms but the most traditional one will be performed here next week. David Davis & the Warrior River Boys pride themselves on playing the same type of bluegrass Bill Monroe started in the 1930s.
By: Ben Rodgers, The Jamestown Sun
Bluegrass music can take a lot of forms but the most traditional one will be performed here next week.
David Davis & the Warrior River Boys pride themselves on playing the same type of bluegrass Bill Monroe started in the 1930s.
Monroe, who is considered by many the father of bluegrass, enlisted Davis’ uncle, Cleo, as the first member of his first band — the Blue Grass Boys in 1938. That band is where the genre’s name comes from.
Traditional bluegrass from that area has a high lonesome vocal sound, accompanied by harmonies, contemporary vocals and the Monroe-style three-finger picking style on the mandolin, said John Andrus, media director of the Bluegrass Association of North Dakota.
“In the band you’ll hear the harmony stacked in a higher note than traditional country music,” Andrus said.
Bluegrass originated in the Kentucky hills, which is why Andrus said this Davis concert will bring the mountain music out to the Plains.
Traditional bluegrass, like that played by Davis & the Warrior River Boys, consists of a banjo, fiddle, stand-up bass, guitar and mandolin.
“It’s a traditional bluegrass band,” Davis said. “It’s as real as you’re going to hear that music played, I feel.”
Just as bluegrass can take many different forms, the origin is also from a number of different American roots music.
As a subgenre of country western, bluegrass also incorporates Scottish, English and Irish elements, while adding the call and response element from field hollers and early jazz elements.
Bluegrass has also been called folk music with overdrive, Andrus said.
“Anybody that likes folk music that would like Bob Dylan, Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie, that music is hand in hand with what we’re doing,” Davis said. “It’s just a first cousin to what we’re doing.”
Davis has seen firsthand the diverse group of people that enjoy his style of bluegrass, including everyone from Trent Reznor to Patsy Cline fans.
“Young people aren’t into labeling music, they like it or they don’t,” he said. “They feel it or they don’t feel it. I think bluegrass can stand on its own in that respect.”
Davis didn’t start out as a premier mandolin player. In fact, it took a remark from his idol before he improved his play.
In 1982 at the age of 21, Davis was with a group of journeymen musicians putting together a tribute album for Bill Monroe, when Monroe came into the studio.
“I was in a studio doing his songs, in a tribute to him, playing his instrument, singings his songs, singing his part,” Davis said. At this point Davis has played mandolin for about six months, while Monroe has played for about 50 years.
After Davis played a part sparsely, Monroe came in and said, “Do you think I could show you a few notes that you’re not puttin’ in that?”
Monroe took the mandolin and, as Davis said, “He ripped the break off.” In other words, he played like the virtuoso he was.
Monroe asked Davis to play that same way, two minutes after he failed and of course he failed again.
“It can make the steel stronger or it can break the steel,” he said of the experience.
For the next decade Davis honed his mandolin craft based on the Monroe style.
Since then he has become a member of the Alabama Bluegrass Hall of Fame, played in 45 states and headlined the Missouri River Bluegrass Festival twice. All while he evolved his style from the Monroe foundation.
“At some point you have to try to play what’s inside you and I think Bill Monroe would tell you that,” Davis said.
David Davis & the Warrior River Boys play at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday in the Jamestown High School auditorium.
Tickets are $20 at the door and $15 in advance at The Arts Center, Anne Carlsen Center, Nita’s Attic and Unison Bank.
Sun reporter Ben Rodgers can be reached at 701-952-8455 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org