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Preview: A Rare 1966 Performance From the Rev. Gary Davis to Be Released on March 23

Artist: Rev. Gary Davis
Title: The Avant Garde Recordings: Recorded Live - October 1966
Release Date: March 23, 2018
Label: Omnivore Recordings
  • 2-CDs
  • Digital
The Rev. Gary Davis, born in 1896 in the Piedmont region of Laurens, S.C., was a blues and gospel singer who played guitar, banjo, and harmonica and influenced a generation of blues revivalists in the ’60s and beyond — ranging from Dave Van Ronk to Keb’ Mo’. Following decades of playing the Carolinas and mentoring fellow musician Blind Boy Fuller, Davis was introduced to the American Recording Company, where he recorded the bulk of his pre-World War II work. In 1937, he became an ordained minister and released mainly gospel music. The late ’60s proved a career renaissance for the Reverend; he played to a new, largely white audience at the Newport Folk Festival. He died in 1972.

In late October of 1966, Davis was captured on a single microphone in the small Milwaukee coffeehouse called Avant Garde. Only open from 1962-1968, the Avant Garde featured everything from experimental film and poetry to some of the best blues and folk performers of the era. Rev. Davis rolled out his classics “Samson and Delilah,” “Jesus Met the Woman at the Well,” “You Got To Move,” “Twelve Gates to the City” and others in an intimate setting.

Omnivore Recordings will release this previously unavailable material as Reverend Gary Davis: The Avant Garde Recordings: Recorded Live — October 1966, a 2-CD set and Digital, on March 23, 2018. Musicologist Bill Dahl wrote the biographical liner notes along with memories of the venue by John Stropes of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Included as a bonus download is an interview with Rev. Davis after one of the shows. Produced by native Milwaukeean and Grammy Award-winning producer, Cheryl Pawelski with restoration and mastering by Grammy Award-winning engineer, Michael Graves, these spellbinding, never-before-heard recordings are a revealing addition to his recorded legacy. 

In his notes, Stropes wrote: “The Avant Garde Coffeehouse, founded by Harold Strohmeier in 1962, was the locus of the folk/blues revival in Wisconsin. There were places like this in other geographic areas, but, in Wisconsin, none as important as the Avant Garde…The proximity to the Chicago electric blues scene provided a distinctive mix of performers. Patrons regarded the music with the same seriousness and respect given to classical music. It was a classroom. You went there to learn. You could actually sit down and have a conversation with these performers. Without the Avant Garde, there would have been no centrality for these older traditions or the recasting of these traditions by revivalists.”

Track List:

Disc 1
  • Samson And Delilah
  • Jesus Met The Woman At The Well
  • Twelve Gates To The City
  • Buck Dance
  • The Sun Is Goin’ Down
  • Oh Glory, How Happy I Am
  • You Got To Move
  • One More River To Cross
  • I Feel Like My Time Ain’t Long
  • Might Well Get Ready, You Got To Die
  • Soon My Work Will All Be Done 
Disc 2
  • Children Of Zion
  • Sally, Where’d You Get Your Liquor From?
  • She’s Funny That Way
  • Maple Leaf Rag
  • You Got To Reap Just What You Sow
  • Lo, I’ll Be With You Always
  • Before This Time Another Year
  • Keep Your Lamp Trimmed And Burning
  • Marine Band
  • I Am The Light Of This World
  • A Long Way To Tipperary