Ron Davies - The Kitchen Tapes
Ron Davies may not be a name you are too familiar with but chances are you have listened to and enjoyed his songs through the years without even knowing from whom they originated. The elder brother of acclaimed Nashville-based singer-songwriter Gail Davies, Ron has had his songs recorded by such diverse acts as David Bowie, Randy Travis, Helen Reddy, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Anne Murray, Three Dog Night, Dobie Gray, Kevin Welch, Vince Gill, Jerry Jeff Walker, Ricky Skaggs, Joe Cocker, Long John Baldry, Dave Edmunds, Merry Clayton, Maria Muldaur, and of course his more well-known sister, Gail Davies.
A genius of rhyme and melody, Ron has been called ‘the quintessential poet’ and ‘the songwriter’s writer.’ Best-known for his gritty, blues standard, It Ain’t Easy, recorded by rock band Three Dog Night and later included on David Bowie’s landmark ZIGGY STARDUST album, Ron Davies was deeply rooted in the country music tradition but branching out as far afield as rough-edged blues and soul stirrings. A passionate songwriter, he brings an eloquent sense of desolation to these mainly sad and obviously personal songs, imparting a sweetness to them that most performers can only hint at.
As the title suggests, these are home-recorded songs, mainly just Ron’s voice and guitar, with occasional harmony vocals and the addition of Dobro or slide guitar, to produce a very personal somewhat melancholic mood. The result is an album built around one core and essential element: great songwriting. Ron possessed the kind of soulful edgy voice that the mostly soul-laced material calls for. His casual, drawling way of singing lends itself to the late-night blue-hued vibe of This Time With You. Sparse Dobro sets the scene for Mixin’ With The Rain as Ron, in his lower register gets raspy and deliciously dangerous, in the upper taut and insistent. My Heart Won’t Let Go has echoes of early Willie Nelson, circa 1962, both in his Ron’s vocal phrasing and the confessional lyrics.
Gail Davies duets on the wondrous Falling Out Of Love, the pair’s Everly-styled harmonies, the simple reflective song and acoustic-laced arrangement are all quite refreshing. There’s a great Jimmie Rodgers’ vibe to Where You Been Tonight, at any moment I expected Ron to break out into a ‘blue yodel,’ he comes close as his voice almost cracks into a ragged falsetto. He wrote So Long Old Friend for his writing and drinking buddy Townes Van Zandt, shortly after the Texas troubadour passed away. Deeply heartfelt and intrinsically personal, this is another laid-back gem: Pure Ron Davies; bluesy and heartfelt, but very accessible. Being of a certain age, I easily related to Home From The Sea, a softly sung reflective ballad about a rich and busy life full of great memories that can be recalled at anytime by an older man who’s ready to put down roots. Gail steps in to add harmonies to Hold That Train, an old-school country tale with more than a hint of the Louvins or the Delmores.
There are so many other great songs in this 22-track collection that showcase Ron Davies’ creative songwriting and rootsy delivery. There are a lot of artists with little talent, who’ve got a lot of credits. Ron Davies had a lot of talent, but little credits. This a quiet gem that grows and grows in stature with repeated playing. Upon peeling back the surface layers, one finds that Ron Davies was indeed an artist with his own one-of-a-kind voice set inside songs that explore his own compelling life story. As an avid listener of great music, I can never ask or want for anything more than that.