Armed with a battery of Les Pauls, Davis offers up some finger licking good riffs and lyrics that’ll have you firing up the grille and singing along, while balancing a tumbler of whiskey.
Davis and his group, The Joe Davis Band, have received accolades from from below the Mason-Dixon Line, that include a 2007 Best Hard Rock Act from the Charlotte Music Awards to his own 2008 Best Male Vocalist award at the Country Music Awards.
The guy can lay down some heartfelt gut-level ballads, as well as shake the rafters with his mix of Southern-Metal rock, both laden with some of the finest slide guitar you’ll ever hear.
As you’d expect, Davis is a big fan of The Allman Brothers and he recently found himself playing Duane Allman’s ’57 Gold top while working on The Skydog Woody Project.
Rick Landers: What’s the Skydog Woody Project?
Joe Davis: The Skydog Woody Project, featured Duane Allman’s 1957 Goldtop guitar and Allen Woody’s Gibson bass, both from the Allman Brothers. The Skydog Woody Project came with me getting involved with Duane Allman’s 1957 Goldtop Les Paul guitar, aka “the Layla guitar”. It was the guitar Duane Allman used on the song “Layla” with Eric Clapton and many other legendary songs. The album also features the late Allen Woody’s Gibson Thunderbird bass. It’s a southern blues rock album, made with alot of love and alot of magic.
Rick: Would you mind telling us how you ended up playing Duane’s Les Paul?
Joe Davis: I met a collector who turned me on to same names of some guys who I was told “might” have the guitar. I proceeded to email and call and got in touch with the owner of it. His name is Scot Lamar.
After meeting with him and checking out his guitar collection, I spent some time getting to know the owner, and we became great friends. We both had the same love for Jimi Hendrix, Duane Allman and all the greats. We spent hours just talking about them and hanging out. After we spent some time getting to know each other, he let me see Duane Allman’s guitar. I was blown away,
I spent my whole life dreaming of just seeing it. I am a huge Allman Brothers’ fan. I still can’t believe I got to see it. A week or two later, through mutual conversation, with his permission and trust, we set a date to record in Charlotte, North Caroline, with the famed guitar. I was blown away.
Enter Garry Harper.
A dear friend of mine who is a awesome musician/bass guitarist, and I were talking and I told him I was going to record with the Layla guitar and Garry, had a idea. He used to live beside Allen Woody in Nashville, Tennessee. He was good friends with the late Allen Woody. Woody was the bassist for the Allman Brothers from 1989 to 2000. After speaking with his father Doug Woody, it was decided that Garry was going to be allowed to bring Allen’s Gibson Thunderbird bass into the studio with me to make the album.
Id also like to say that the album, The Skydog Woody Project, was as magical to make as much as the story behind it. Being a singer on it and guitarist, I was honored and humbled and I still can’t believe we got to make this album.
Rick: What was going through your head when you were playing the Skydog LP?
Joe Davis: “I couldn’t believe I even got to see it, and now I am playing it?!” I was in guitar euphoria, the guitar sounded so incredible and it has this bite to the way it plays, where it just gets you in the zone. The guitar, even without its exalted history, was magical in itself. It was most the amazing Les Paul I’ve ever seen. We used an amp identical to Duane Allman’s 50 watt Marshall on the album. It was all key into getting into guitar euphoria.
I took unrealistic measures while handling it and had a custom made strap built to hold it as not to scratch it. I had my buddies guard it every time I was out of the room in the studio. We were guarding this thing with our lives and we had alot of fun making the album.
We also re recorded “Layla” with the Layla guitar.
Rick: Although your music has a number of influences, Southern Rock and Swamp Rock seem to be major influences. Tell us about your musical influences in those arenas, as well as others.
Joe Davis: As a singer/guitarist I have been playing guitar many years, My love for the guitar started when I was four years old. I grew up playing any and every great guitarist material since I can remember. From Jerry Reed, Roy Clark, Chet Atkins, Hendrix, Clapton, Beck, to Iommi, Randy Rhodes, Gary Moore. There is so may, I can’t even name them all. I love anyone who can play with heart and passion, technical or not technical, there is just too many greats influences to say. I did learn a great from learning the music of alot of the big names in guitar.
The swamp rock thing came from my love for real Delta blues. Where it has a unique twang to the riffs which I then in incorporated in the Southern Rock. Even though we don’t like the term Southern Rock because we feel it doesn’t describe what we do as a whole. I also bring to the table mostly live, chicken picken ala Ricky Skaggs, Don Rich, John 5, as well as Delta slide, Robert Johnson, Duane Allman, Ry Cooder. There is a southern influence in the music, but we are also heavy metal. I was influenced by all the powerhouse metal guitarist, as well. We came up with the term Southern Metal years ago. That’s what The Joe Davis Band is.
Rick: A lot of guitarists pick up a slide, but tend to put it back down and never learn the techniques and nuances of slide guitar. What road did you take to figuring it out and who are some of your favorite past and present slide players?
Joe Davis: I think you have to have a song in your heart before you can play slide guitar. There is alot more to slide then just hitting notes. Alot of it is pure feel. But, knowing where the notes are with the slide takes you there.
I spent alot of time playing to my favorite blues slide albums, and trying to remember while I am learning the guitar parts, that I want to feel, what they were feeling while they were recording this, and trying to capture their soul. While learning to play slide. Its not just hitting notes. I think guitarist are quick to not take the time to feel the soul of the song. Real slide has to have soul.
I always take the song “Layla” for example, which we re recorded on The Skydog Woody Project. At the end of “Layla”, Duane Allman is playing a totally separate melody from the song that sings through the end, even though there is several guitars in the mix, those melodies were his creations, of music that accompanied the already existing music.
I originally heard Ry Cooder on the soundtrack for the movie starring Ralph Macchio called Crossroads, back in the ’80s. I had already been a Duane Allman fan and I had heard Robert Johnson, but after hearing Ry Cooder’s work on the soundtrack I went and started re-learning my slide playing.
I like Robert Johnson, Ry Cooder, Duane Allman, I like Keb Mo, too. Once again there is too many to list..
Rick: If you were giving a lesson on slide, what’s some of the best advice you’d give a new player?
Joe Davis: Keep the slide over the fret and keep it straight with the fret , learn how to play each note without shaking the slide, learn to walk to the notes, using the slide in scale. Use brass slides on acoustic, glass slides on electric and listen to Robert Johnson.
Rick: Let’s do the “gear question” – What guitars are you using in the studio, in performance and while kicking back at home? Amps?
I am strickly a Marshall user. I practice with Marshalls, I use them live. I often do session work with a 1959 Super Lead, or JCM 800’ s. Live with the Joe Davis Band I run several Marshall stacks. I don’t use dummy cabinets on stage, all mine work.
One of my road crew guys dragged in a MG 250 combo Marshall. I use in my living room. Its a cool amp as well.
Any effects? I use a boss chorus ensemble to split the Marshall heads off. I use real stock stuff, a Jim Dunlop wah and Rotovibe. Boss super overdrive.
Rick: Tell us about the guys in the Joe Davis Band and how you guys got together.
Joe Davis: The Joe Davis Band is John”Foot” Galloway on drums, Keith Anderson, bass and my self on guitar and vocals.
Originally in the early ’90s, Keith and I had been working with various singers and line ups playing clubs and bars and I knew him from the local music scene. Keith and I had worked together on and off over the next eight years. Up till around 1998, That’s when we got real serious about playing together. I went to see him at his band’s rehearsal place and he was having a huge fight with some of their other band members.
I just went to see Keith, and hang out. As I was walking in, he was walking out pushing his Ampeg rig asking me If I was needing a bassist, and that he was obviously leaving the group he was with, and then that’s when I met John Galloway. This guy comes backing up to the building abruptly in old brown van slamming his drums into the back cussing that he was leaving the group they were in.
They had been playing together in a local band and it wasn’t working out. He walks up to me and says “Hey man, if you ever need a drummer, call me, lets rock.”
Keith and I talked for a week, and he talked me into letting John come over and hear him play. That was how we met.
The Joe Davis Band has had several line up changes throughout the years in the drum and bass department, but it all comes back to the original members who I have back with with me currently. In 1999, John Galloway my drummer and Keith Anderson bass were in a regional working rock band and I was playing guitar in similar situation. I wasn’t fronting the band just yet.
We had gotten together to play some cover tunes under the name “Supermule” to go out and play classic rock favorites to make some dough, while our other projects were going haywire.
At some point we recorded four original songs that got a a lot of attention. I did the singing bit in the beginning to not have to deal with lead singers just to get the shows done. The four song demo found its way to a few record labels while we were rocking out and it wasn’t long after that I had decided I just wanted to keep doing my own thing, where I was just singing and playing guitar.
They joined in and we went spent years working together and having a brotherhood, and sharing alot of musical chemistry. We had a parting of the ways back in the day with all of us wanted to try new things, while I pushed on with different versions of the JDB, and I had both of them back at different times, but not together again until a year ago.
Rick: When you come up with new songs are you intentionally working on a theme or do ideas just come up when you’re noodling around?
Joe Davis: I do both. Sometimes I want to write about a particular subject matter. I also feel that the best songs are ones you that haunt you, where they write you, instead of you writing them. I play alot and I get inspired by playing. When I am sitting around the house I come up with ideas. I wake up with ideas. I am always writing.
Rick: You’re one of those “all rounder” guitar players and not a “one trick pony”, meaning I’ve heard you shred, pound out heavy metal, sing shrieking vocals and roll out some subtle country-laden acoustic tracks. Still, people tend to define you as a Southern Rock guy. What are your thoughts on the Joe Davis style?
Joe Davis: To coin the phrase around here , it’s “Les Paul’s and Overalls”. I am a hard working man, and I am from the South. I am Southern, which I can’t hide or want to hide. It shows through in my music. Whether its the swamp rock, or the heavy metal music, my Southernisms shine through. I am who I am.
I love guitar more than I love the rockstar business and all that. The sounds they make excite me.
Rick: You’ve got four albums under your belt – Tell us about your latest project and what we can expect from it?
Joe Davis: The new album is going to be very powerful. Loaded with southern heavy metal guitar, slide meshed with southern shred guitar, but with taste. Its going to be a album with a soul, songs that are sincere. The new album is going to be one of a kind.
Rick: Any tour plans for 2012?
Joe Davis: I want to spent the rest of my life touring. We are a great live band and we put on a great live show, sonically powerful and with big production, we want to show it off as much as we can. We want to tour forever.