Gary Davis (1896-1972) was a decided and acknowledged influence on a number of early rockers, including Bob Dylan, the Grateful Dead, and the Rolling Stones, and this sampler of works from 1935-49 shows ample reasons why. The pieces are almost all religious blues, but of an extremely earthy and rough sort, the type of things Davis sang to crowds on street corners from North Carolina to Harlem. His voice is gravelly and casual, sometimes slurring entire lines, yet he manages to strike the right tone with satisfying consistency. What may cause the contemporary listener to really sit up and take notice, however, is his astonishing and intricate guitar playing. If extracted and heard out of context, one might well imagine he's listening to John Fahey from 30 years hence. The album, in fact, closes with an instrumental that incorporates various march themes. There are a bunch of killer songs here, including the title track and "I Am the Light of the World," which have both lost none of their power over the years. The disc comes with excellent historical and critical liner notes by Robert Tilling. Highly recommended.
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AllMusic Review by Brian Olewnick