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NICHOLAS MERCER: Corner Brook’s Coal Davie is playing the blues out west

Corner Brook native Coal Davie is trying to make it as a blues musician in British Columbia.
Corner Brook native Coal Davie is trying to make it as a blues musician in British Columbia. - Submitted

Coal Davie can still remember the sounds of Elvis Presley resonating through his home in Corner Brook.

Located on Central Street in what is commonly referred to as Townsite, his parents would sit and listen to all of the King’s hits. 

Tracks like “Jailhouse Rock,” “All Shook Up” and “Heartbreak Hotel” were common listens. However, it was some of the Kings more bluesier tracks that Davie found himself gravitating too.

Songs like “Mystery Train” (Junior Parker) with its staccato groove and the rhythmic lovers lament called “Reconsider Baby” (Lowell Fulson) weren’t some of the tracks Elvis is widely known for, but that didn’t matter to Davie.

“I always tuned into the more bluesy songs,” he said from his recording studio in Burnaby, B.C.

When Davie, who would not give his age, moved into high school, he found himself drawn to Led Zeppelin, a seminal rock act that had its share of connections to the blues. A band known as much for its blues tracks as much as “Stairway to Heaven,” Zeppelin bridged the gap between hard rock and the blues.

Zep’s guitarist, Jimmy Page, was formerly of The Yardbirds, a band at the forefront of the British blues explosion, and carried over the influences of genre luminaries like Elmore James, B.B. King and Freddie King to his latter band. Coincidentally, The Yardbirds also featured a young British guitarist who knows a thing or two about the blues by the name of Eric Clapton.

So, what does any of this have to do with Davie?

After moving to Burnaby to pursue a career in the arts, Davie — who has been playing guitar and writing songs since he was teenaged Dave Coleman — is beginning to focus on music.

For the last six months he has been working on a live show and slowly releasing some blues-inspired song.

He’s been playing harmonica and providing vocals for a group called The Eastside Ramblers all the while getting things ready for a solo venture.

Davie’s Soundcloud page has 10 tracks readily available for people who want to check it out.

For the most part, each one has a distinct blues feel with driving guitar riffs and a steady back beat.

A couple of songs mix in some funk (“Funkiest Man Alive”) and have a more top-40 radio feel (“Silent Movie”). There is also a gospel blues song with some impressive harmonica work featured in what is available so far.

All in all, it’s a solid start to a catalogue that Davie said should be larger by the time he is all said and done.

Influenced by the likes of Junior Wells (he likes his energy), Paul Butterfield, Charlie Musselwhite and others, Davie has a larger number of songs written that are just waiting to be recorded.

I didn’t discover the blues until I was in my late 20s thanks to a classmate during my one year at the University of King’s College in Halifax while completing my journalism degree.

On Friday nights, a group of us would sit and listen to old blues and soul songs.

We’d listen to the likes of Sonny Boy Williamson, Freddie King, Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac, Sam Cooke, Otis Redding and others, with every intention of only spinning a couple of tracks before heading out on the town.

More often than not, the going out part wouldn’t happen. It’d just be another night in what we dubbed the Black Hole.

Listening to Davie’s songs, you get the feeling the blues has really taken ahold of him similarly to what it did for me several years ago.

A working-class genre, the blues grew out of slavery work songs and can reflect the plight of a people through song.

Davie doesn’t necessarily see it like that. He doesn’t write with the sorrow you might associate with the blues.

He sees a different side of the music.

“Blues has a sense of humour,” said Davie of his genre of choice. “It's not necessarily about sorrow.”

With his form of the blues, he is trying to get people moving and it works.

Web link: https://soundcloud.com/coal-davie

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