Detroit songwriter Ethan Daniel Davidson approaches his craft unlike a lot of his peers. In 2005, Davidson released Free the Ethan Daniel Davidson 5 and proceeded to embark on a six-year tour that took him quite literally around the globe, everywhere from Alaska to Syria in a prolonged road trip that yielded about 900 shows. To say the very least, Davidson was committed to getting his music heard, and also gave away more than 50,000 copies of his album on that tour, beating the downloaders and torrent sharers at the punch by happily handing over CDs and LPs free of charge. After such a ridiculously epic journey, it follows that Silvertooth, his first collection of songs since that incredible pilgrimage, is a colorful stew of strange places and unplaceable emotional landscapes. Davidson's songs are rooted in the model of the archetypical American folksinger, and opening track "I Ain't the Man I Used to Be" chugs along with a tense railroad rhythm, New Orleans-style brass whispering ghostly secrets beneath a Dylan-esque rhyme pattern and lyrics looking back venomously on just how much times have changed. "The Dogs Howl, the Caravan Moves On" updates Davidson's folksinger mode somewhat, with buried synthesizer melodies and electronic elements filling out the haunting traveling song. There's a spooky, lonesome feeling that touches almost every track on Silvertooth. Somewhere between the pastoral feel of empty-hearted ballad "Will Your Trainwreck Run on Time" and the Halloweeny howl of "Go Down in the Black Earth," Davidson crafts a sound that takes equally from Tom Waits' twisted imagery, Leonard Cohen's desperate late-night confessions, and a distillation of all his travels in those six years touring on his last album. It's difficult to wrap up something so all over the place nicely, and Silvertooth isn't the most consistent album in terms of flow. The maudlin "Your Old Key" drags with corny keyboard plunks and predictable chord changes, and the mountainous fuzz guitar that bathes "Denver's Gone" seems remarkably out of place. Bright production from His Name Is Alive mastermind Warn DeFever helps tidy up some of the album's loose ends, but ultimately Silvertooth may fare stronger as a track-by-track affair than as a start-to-finish album. Even still, the songs all crackle with a richness that seems inspired by life-changing travels and a need to sum up six years of them in a single statement. With this album, Davidson comes close to that goal, offering up lively Americana embodying both the Kerouac-ian spirit of the road and his own unique perspective on the lifestyle of the modern troubadour.
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AllMusic Review by Fred Thomas