The Rev. Gary Davis + Sonny Terry, Brownie McGhee, Louisiana Red, others – The Blues and Salvation (2014)

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Featuring previously unreleased finds from the still-riveting imagination of a rag-time country blues master, The Blues and the Salvation finds the late Rev. Gary Davis amidst an all-star cast.

Davis employs a finger-picking style that, along with his resonant blend of gospel and blues material, is as electrifying today as it was when he first rose to belated folk-boom fame in the 1960s. Born in Laurens, S.C. in the late 1800s, and largely self-taught, Davis also had a gravel-gargling voice that perfectly conveyed the weight of his crushing experiences in the Jim Crow South — but also of his lasting faith and conviction.

It seemed, however, that the release of 2004’s From Blues to Gospel — featuring recordings from just a year before Davis’ 1972 passing — marked our final opportunity for new discovery. This new two-disc set, distributed by Naxos, arrives then as a welcome surprise.

He’s featured on 11 of the 37 tracks here, sprinkled in between little-heard moments from early blues sojourners Sonny Terry, Brownie McGhee, Louisiana Red, and lesser-known finds like George Higgs and Jemima James. Davis steals the spotlight, every time, illustrating all over again why he became an important early touchstone for both the Grateful Dead and Bob Dylan through a combination of offbeat instrumental brilliance and fiery lyrical conviction.

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