Reverend Gary Davis (1896-1972) cut his first records during the '30s, established his early mature style with a new spate of records in the mid-'40s, doggedly persevered and was roundly "rediscovered" by the folk and blues revivalists of the late '50s and early '60s. On May 8, 1964 the Rev, on tour with something called the Blues and Gospel Caravan, was recorded in live performance with his Gibson guitar at the Free Trade Hall in Manchester, England. In 2008 Document released a compact disc containing all of the music known to have been taped during that set. This is a revealing and wonderfully honest album of traditional songs, including "If I Had My Way," a ritual first recorded by Blind Willie Johnson decades earlier and lucratively covered by the Caucasian folk trio Peter, Paul & Mary. Also present at the Free Trade Hall was whoop-and-holler harmonica ace Sonny Terry, an expressive performer who exchanges words and blows up a duet with Davis on "The Sun is Going Down" and solos at length on "Coon Hunt." Davis alternately sang both sacred as well as bracingly worldly blues tunes, and also tapped into his own early roots with the "Cincinnati Flow Rag" and Scott Joplin's "Maple Leaf Rag," syncopated episodes that, along with everything else on this excellent album, link him directly to old time ragtime/blues guitar legends Henry Thomas, Blind Boy Fuller, and Blind Blake.
AllMusic Review by arwulf arwulf