Frank Davis – Sand Mountain Coffee House in Houston c. 1965
I’m working on a new CD to be recorded and mixed in my home studio this winter. The songs are all acoustic. Most will be recorded with a single guitar in a single take. If I had to pick a genre for it, I would call it Texas Folk.
My musical taste vary wildly. I like most anything live if it’s done well. The music I favor tends to be rock, R&B, blues, some jazz and some country as well. The songs I’ve chosen for this CD are all mine except one. They’re fingerpicked, many in the Travis-style. People I’ve played for in clubs say they’re reminiscent of Townes Van Zandt songs. I take that as a great compliment, though it doesn’t surprise me.
Like Van Zandt, I grew up in Houston in the 50s. As a child I listened to pop on KILT during the day and fell asleep (eventually) to sensational blues and R&B on KYOK. I was barely in my teens when folk revival hit the airwaves. I saw Townes, Guy Clark and many others folk musicians at Sand Mountain, a coffee house in the Montrose district – not far from my grandparents’ house on Audubon Place. It was 1964-5, near the end of the revival. I was in high school but not old enough to drive. I was absolutely floored by what I heard at Sand Mountain.
As with any fashion most folk songs were uninteresting. Finally the weight of so many bouncy, mediocre pop-folk hits and the excitement of the British Invasion killed the movement – or rather pushed it into folk rock, and later country. Many of the enduring folk songs were written and sung by those who raised their voices against social injustice and war. Others were personal. Many of my favorites were dark road songs about people who longed for companionship but driven to wander alone. This was Townes Van Zandt’s milieu – songs like
Pancho and Lefty
If I Needed You
To Live Is To Fly
For the Sake of the Song
Waitin’ Round to Die
Nine Pound Hammer
Like Townes’ mine are not completely dark. In many I offer the hope of humanity. The Poet of Santa Fe County, Boys Town, The Door in the Dark, and Gulf of Mexico are story songs. In St. James Infirmary I add several verses to flesh out the old blues. To Life is my ballad to a friend as he lay dying. (Even that leaves a small light in the window.) Like a Stone and Broken Not Beautiful are about the lifelong effects of early trauma. Call is a love song unanswered. Bueno the Roan is about trying to regain the happiness of youth among the hills of northern New Mexico.
I will try to portray a sense of truth and intimacy in each of them. Stay tuned.