Davis Coen,
These Things Shall Pass
(Soundview, 2017)

Mississippi bluesman Davis Coen has made nine previous albums but none has crossed my desk before, so These Things Shall Pass was my introduction to this truly good singer and guitar player. More an Americana disc than a blues record, the album blends rock, soul, blues, folk and gospel into a solid single substance. Coen has given us an album of spirituals, all given a Mississippi blues-rock treatment.

The material ranges from classic American hymns like "What a Friend We Have in Jesus" and "The Old Rugged Cross" to Coen's own recently composed spirituals. His arrangements are imaginative and always a vital part of the song, not just an accompaniment. His take on Willie Banks and the Messengers' "Working for Jesus," for example, features a sort of Muscle Shoals organ-dominated arrangement while"Stand by You" uses a folky, acoustic guitar- and dobro-led sound. All of it rocks.

Coen's husky and sturdy baritone is perfect for this material. He sings with conviction, reaching deeply into each song and drawing out all the soul that's residing within it. He appears to love the stuff he's singing; you can feel the joy in his vocals and, as a listener, I respond to that as much as I do his taste; Coen comes across as one of those guys who feels the song is more important than the singer; he never oversings and never calls attention to his own voice. He's also a fine writer. His original compositions, which include eight of the 12 songs on the disc, reveal new depths on each hearing.

In all, These Things Shall Pass works as Americana and as a spiritual experience. As I said, the album was my introduction to Davis Coen's work. I'll be seeking out the rest.

music review by
Michael Scott Cain

29 April 2017

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