Prior to releasing Song Painter, Davis was very well-known as a songwriter, particularly for penning the Elvis Presley hits “A Little Less Conversation” and “In the Ghetto,” songs strong enough to earn him his own recording contract with Columbia. The label decided to spin his songwriting success as a badge of honor, positioning him as something more than a professional -- he’s not a pen-for-hire, he’s a "Song Painter," a term that certainly carries the weight of art. To be sure, the album itself carries through on that promise, containing hints of Mickey Newbury’s impressionistic country, brief bridges between full songs, and quiet moments of introspection, sometimes drifting into a sweet psychedelic haze as it does on “Home,” but the heart of the album is anchored in a rootsy rock reminiscent of Joe South and a splashy orchestrated country-pop in the vein of Elvis’ ’68 comeback. The latter would provide Davis the vehicle toward massive pop success, but it takes the backseat to soft, symphonic country-pop throughout Song Painter. Davis punctuates this lushness with the terrific boogie “Hello L.A., Bye Bye Birmingham” (co-written by Delaney Bramlett) and a touch too much cutesiness, but this remains an ambitious yet soothing piece of period progressiveness that maintains much of its charm over the years.
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