Album Reviews

Son Of Dave – 03

(Kartel) UK release date: 7 April 2008


Every so often there comes an artist who manages to breathe new fire into the dying embers of styles long-since thought hackneyed hat. Which is exactly what The White Stripes have done to white-person Blues.

But that doesn’t mean there ain’t room for a few more revivalists to charge through the same door so thoroughly blown off its hinges by the White-types. And while The Black Keys have made full use of this new space, so, as I’m sure you’ve guessed by now, has Son Of Dave.

Son Of Dave ain’t exactly what you’d call a newcomer. According to the press blurbs, Son Of Dave has been in the biz for 22 years, including a starring role in the not-especially-fondly-remembered Crash Test Dummies.

Son Of Dave (or let’s call him, say, Benjamin Darvill) is now into his third album, and it has to be said, has this Blues-schtick down pat.

Darvill sings and plays like he knows exactly what’s gonna make this most battered and bullied of genres work in the 21st Century. There’s no extended guitar-riffage, no descent into endless Mannish Boy derivations.

Darvill’s clever enough to know that much of this music’s gestures have been xeroxed to oblivion, therefore so much of 03 is performed with a good-time conspiratorial wink.

Part of 03’s charm lies in the fact that Darvill sounds like he’s enjoying himself so much that he can’t believe he’s earning a living for the pleasure. 22 years of minor success is no doubt gonna generate plenty of psychological callus.

The swampy, semi-psychedelic I Just Wanna Get High With You is emblematic of 03’s unforced, low-slung bonhomie, and Roller Boogie is a stoned-soul picnic that knows that the party ain’t last forever (“funny how the time goes / ‘bye ‘bye!”).

No slouch in the vocal department, Darvill switches cleverly from post-Waitsian growls in his noir-ish voice-over style swipes at social hierarchies (Old Times Were Good Times): to some confessional falsetto as smooth as a fresh dose of single malt (the low-slung cover of Low Rider, I’m Not Your Friend No More); and a highly-peronalised rhyme-style (Lover Not A Fighter). Indeed, most of these switches occur in the same songs.

Darvill’s carnal harmonica-playing takes up much of centre-stage, while Alex McGowan and Darvill’s echoey production does da Blooze all the upgrade favours that Rick Rubin did for country on Johnny Cash‘s American series.

Mopping up all the bottom-end frequencies going begging, McGowan gives 03 a sheer presence that could see it jostle fairly for shelf space with many of the big-label hopefuls to be thrown your way this spring.

With the likes of knob-twiddling Manna duo Kevin Bacon & Jonathan Quarmby thrown in for good measure, Son Of Dave’s 03 is one smart piece of work to be sure.

I still personally prefer something as raw and uncooked as Detroit’s Jawbone for my Blues-based diet, but it should be taken as read that 8 out of 10 groovy cats will prefer Dave’s lad.


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More on Son Of Dave
Son Of Dave – Blues At The Grand
Track-By-Track: Son Of Dave – Blues At The Grand
Son Of Dave – Shake A Bone
Son Of Dave – 03