Guy Davis, In Bed With The Blues: The Adventures of Fishy Waters
Ramapo College of New Jersey, February 6, 2003:
Guy Davis comes to play his own brand of uniquely creative Blues, at the Berrie Center, here on the Ramapo College campus in Mahwah, New Jersey. The Sharp Theatre, in the Berrie Center, is very intimate with just 300 seats. It is part of the various new constructions on our campus. I strike up an interesting conversation with Michael, a Blues enthusiast, who has come tonight to hear Guy Davis.
Guy comes tonight to spin the titillating tale of the adventures of Fishy Waters. He completely immerses himself in the character of Fishy Waters, a traveling hobo in the Deep South who has this insatiable urge to play guitar and travel to Nashville and make music. The story is set in the 1950’s and depicts a character, much like Muddy Waters, who is a sharecropper’s son determined to play guitar and sing, rather than work in the cotton fields as an impoverished tenant farmer.
Guy comes on stage at 7:43 P.M. He walks out with his Gibson acoustic guitar un-amplified. He walks around completely unassuming to tell the story of Fishy Waters in it’s complete authenticity. He is dressed the part in a tweed cap, work boots, sport jacket, and loosened necktie. He combines his incredible acting talents with his blues prowess to create the total cultural imagery he desires. This will not be a night of songs, but of storytelling with songs, creative acting, and a very, very authentic depiction of tough times in a bygone era of country living, no money, and just the inner strength of the human spirit to carry him through.
The first song sets the scene with the lyrics, “21 years I’ve been ramblin’, on the last train to Memphis, I am Fishy Waters.” The second tune is played on the Mississippi sax, the harmonica. Fishy relates a funny little story, humorously interlaced with harmonica musical effects. It’s the story of a hobo hopping a train and a chicken layin’ contest, then convicts escape and bloodhounds give chase. He describes this with barking and harmonica blowing mixed together. There are hogs, and dogs and convicts chasin’ the train. Hog, dog and harp cleverly melded together into blue musical mischief. The next musical snippet continues the hobo story with Miss Ripley. This is a country blues tune, which is bright and snappy, “come on down to Miss Ripley’s and get some catfish stew.”
The fourth tune is a Blues standard from Robert Johnson, “Dust My Broom.” The Blues in F# is quite forceful with a raspy lead vocal and heavy foot stompin’ 4/4 tempo. The slow shuffle tempo, accompanied by foot stompin’ (the only percussive effect) is stark and effective.
The next musical entry is from Reverend Gary Davis, “Candy Man.” This is played in A flat. This Blues standard is exquisitely executed in a country folk style so genuine to Guy’s musical ideals. Fishy jokes with the audience, “your mama know you’re here tonight?” The next story is of Buddy getting a silkworm drunk on Thunder Shot. The worm got drunk and spun out a suit and two pair of pants. Fishy has a uniquely captivating way of telling each special story. There is humor and honesty in every mesmerizing word. In another story, "two-timers" are depicted as giant mosquitoes: “fly took stockings, fly took shoes, now fly got your boat.”
The next tune is a slow deliberate Blues in E. The following story is quite moving. It tells of “niggers being lynched at a Klan rally and a cross burning.” A 14-year-old boy, James, was lynched here, hung from the tree. The old man’s grandson was the little boy. The next song is from Blind Willie McTell, “Georgia Rag.” The vocal refrain, “doin’ that rag, doin’ that Georgia rag,” is delivered in true country blues ragtime style with excellent finger style guitar accompaniment.
Guy now tells the story of Fishy Waters. His parents were sharecroppers and he was originally called Bright Fuller. They were from Chilla, Mississippi. His uncle Juno gave him his first guitar. Fishy gets out a Gibson flat top acoustic 12-string guitar and plays a tune in the key of E. This song is well-executed finger style picking, with a glass slide. The song has a boogie-woogie tempo. The song is a Blues standard with the lyrics, “wake up mama, and turn your lamp down low.”
The next song is another Blues standard, “Walkin’ Blues.” The delivery is strong and soulful; with light foot stompin’, well-executed finger style pickin’ and slide guitar together. The next tune is the topical and humorous “Good Liquor.” This is the first song on his latest CD titled, “Give In Kind.” Sung in the key of E, the lyrics, “keep on drinkin’ till good liquor gonna’ carry me down,” are thoroughly enjoyable and describe the character Crazy Cat Miller.
The drinkin’ theme is expounded upon with the story of green fish water. This was 100% white lightning called, “fish water.” The superior graphical theatre technique employed to illustrate Fishy taking a few gulps was quite hysterical. Incredible character acting is demonstrated in this brief story skit.
The next song in F# is, “Shelter From The Storm.” Fishy needs, “somebody to watch over me.” The slow deliberate Blues is accompanied by heavy foot stomp. Fishy has a raspy and soulful strong vocal on this musical entry. The sounds of trains are cleverly illustrated on harmonica and they are incredible in similarity to the actual sound of the train whistle blowing.
Guy Davis as Fishy Waters puts on a uniquely original and very creative show here tonight. Tremendous!! The story he has told, incorporating the folk style country blues of those times is unique and very creatively different. This was an amazing display of many incredible talents. I urge everyone to catch Fishy Waters if he comes to your town. It is an event you won’t want to miss. Guy Davis at his creative best. BRAVO!!
Guy comes out to sign his CDs and mingle with the fans here at Ramapo College. Here is Guy with Michael.
Guy Davis and I chat about his gig last year at The B.B. King Blues Club in Manhattan, that I reviewed on April 4, 2002. That was a spectacular show as well!!
Thank you Guy Davis for coming up to play for us here at Ramapo College in New Jersey.
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