John Davis, with Sam Ashworth
After winning a lengthy battle with the bottle, ex-Superdrag front man John Davis has found God, but you could have fooled me, at least where his music (as opposed to his lyrics) is concerned. I got about six songs in to his self-titled, R.S. Field-produced solo debut before I realized that this man was testifying. What put me off was the fact that -- unlike the vast majority of Christian music made by white Americans -- this is actually both a good record and, what's more, a hip one, religious messages or not. Davis's love of the Lord hasn't diminished his adoration of the Beatles, the Kinks, north Mississippi blues, the Band and especially the Beach Boys, nor his ability to construct mildly dreamlike, often piano-propelled pop songs out of those building blocks. Likewise, his clear, tenor voice sounds as good as ever. Unlike the music of Johnny Cash, who couched his faith in somewhat vague terms, Davis is more direct, though the imagery on songs like the Band-like "Jesus Gonna Build Me a Home" and the droning Hill Country-blues tune "Have Mercy" have been used so much in secular pop and rock that it doesn't really register as preaching at first. So if you've got a cool Christian in your life, get 'em this record and take 'em to this show -- and hell, you'll probably enjoy it, too. It's like a Pixar flick that way: Just as The Incredibles worked on different levels for kids and adults, so Davis's music works for scoffers and believers alike.
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