Ian Zack - Say No To The Devil: The Life And Musical Genius Of Rev Gary Davis

Published Tuesday 5th January 2016
Ian Zack - Say No To The Devil: The Life And Musical Genius Of Rev Gary Davis
Ian Zack - Say No To The Devil: The Life And Musical Genius Of Rev Gary Davis

STYLE:
RATING 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10
OUR PRODUCT CODE: 158944-BOK879
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FORMAT: Book General book

Reviewed by Lins Honeyman

When it comes to ranking the music world's greatest guitarists of all time, blind South Carolina-born bluesman Reverend Gary Davis rarely gets a mention despite a body of work that betrays a virtuosity that few guitarists have been able to match. Thankfully, New York journalist Ian Zack has set about getting the late guitar evangelist the recognition he deserves in a detailed and informative biography that draws on first hand witnesses to Davis' genius. As well as being a preacher, street performer and recording artist, Davis was a much sought after guitar teacher and the likes of former Davis disciples Stefan Grossman and Ernie Hawkins provide fascinating insights into what made their tutor tick whilst Zack digs deeper into Davis' earlier life through archive interviews and official records. Rather than merely dwelling on Davis' skills as a performer and guitarist, Zack offers up a portrait of a undeniably complex man who faced various hardships throughout his life - not least due to being black and blind in a time when being both in America meant that the cards were already stacked against you. Despite years of toiling away on the streets, in churches and small clubs, the recognition due to Davis did not come until his autumn years and therefore Zack's account of his subject's life is ultimately one of triumph that came through a rough and ready faith in God and a dogged determination to, as Davis himself is quoted as saying, "spread the gospel and sing his truth until the day he knocks me down dead." Nonetheless, Zack is careful not to paint too sanctified a picture and Davis' weakness for alcohol, women and letting his hands wander are recounted in matter of fact fashion whilst weaving a fascinating insight into the relationship between the Reverend and his long suffering wife Annie throughout this invaluable look into the life and genius of one of the blues world's most revered yet less celebrated acts.

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.

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