Express columnists aren’t automatons who output opinions or dispense advice, then turn off for the week (even if they may sometimes feel that way). They all watch television, for instance. And futz around on the Internet. Some of them even read books and eat food! For the last Express of the year, they were each commanded to reveal their favorite diversions of 2011.
Davina Sowers, of Davina and the Vagabonds.
“Black Cloud” by Davina and the Vagabonds: Davina Sowers is many women in one: Betty Boop, Mae West, rollicking blues-tinged pianist, vaudevillian show-off. She shines like a slightly wacky star on her new album, especially on the title song, in which she seductively petitions “Mr. Lucky Man” to remove the Black Cloud that hangs over her light.
We received this great honor from Jon Bream, with artist like Tom Waits, Adele, Lucinda Williams!
THEY WRITE :
“Unlike a lot of magazines and music blogs, we decided to wait until we at least got within Michael Cuddyer-throwing distance of the end of the year before spewing our year-end lists on you. And good thing we did: The two non-local records we agree on — by the Roots and Black Keys — came out in early December.
BREAM’S TOP ALBUMS
1. Adele, “21.” Heartbreak never sounded so liberating as the British soul siren purged the pain with deeply soulful aches and penetrating restraint. That boy was a fool.
2. Lucinda Williams, “Blessed.” The queen of Americana’s most emotionally balanced album sears, soothes and satisfies — with help from Elvis Costello’s emotive guitar.
3. The Roots, “Undun.” This concept album tells a disquieting inner-city story with razor-sharp truths and remarkably ambitious musicality.
4. Paul Simon, “So Beautiful or So What.” His lyrics are a little too egghead-y, but it’s the alluring blend of pretty melodies, resourceful rhythms and relaxed singing that makes this his best solo album in two decades.
5. Tom Waits, “Bad as Me.” The great eccentric one shows more voices and range than usual on another must-have album. His voice may be an acquired taste, but his concise songwriting here is unimpeachably outstanding.
6. Hayes Carll, “KMAG YOYO.” The alt-country hero delivers honky-tonking rockers and wistful ballads with a boozy voice that sounds two shots short of detox.
7. Eric Church, “Chief.” He makes radio-ready country music with the kind of rock ‘n’ roll swagger and skillful balladeering that would make Kid Rock envious.
8. Fleet Foxes, “Helplessness Blues.” This 1960s/1970s-influenced folk-rock collection achieves the kind of gorgeous pop majesty that falsetto-obsessed Bon Iver dreams of.
9. Davina and the Vagabonds, “Black Cloud.” With her piano-pounding Southern soul and New Orleans-flavored horn band, powerhouse Davina Sowers is the most soulful force in today’s Minneapolis Sound.
10. The Black Keys, “El Camino.” The amped-up blues-punk power duo is more accessible and ready for arenas.”
It’s no surprise that Davina Sowers has been hailed by the Star Tribune as the “hardest-working Blues woman in Minnesota.” Averaging over 300 shows a year, Davina and the Vagabonds is a local favorite that is taking the nation by storm. Although DATV has been on numerous tours to every corner of the country, the band still frequently spends evenings performing for a loyal fan-base in the Twin Cities. And this loyal fan-base keeps growing.
Within seconds of putting her fingers to the piano keys and her mouth to the mike, Davina (accompanied by her all-male Vagabonds) takes control of the room and makes raving fans out of new listeners. With her expressive reactions, her sassy and playful piano riffs, and her powerhouse of a voice, it is impossible to not be sucked in by Davina’s charm.
This was particularly true on November 25 at the new Crooked Pint Ale House in Minneapolis. The band’s diverse fan base (swing dancers, punk drummers, older couples, and younger students) was joined by a new crowd of listeners, and everyone in the joint was either dancing enthusiastically or tapping their feet along to the beats laid down by drummer Connor McRae and bassist Michael Carvale (Davina’s husband, lucky man).
The sound of Davina and the Vagabonds is a unique form of Americana blues. The band does a mix of original songs and covers of old blues standards. While critics have likened Davina’s voice to Adele, Amy Winehouse, Etta James, and other women of high caliber, these comparisons do not do her justice. The mastered control Davina has over her vocal range and tone is utterly impressive. Her voice is comforting yet edgy, beautifully surprising, and simply unmatched by any other female singer. She can croon songs that will make you fall in love, such as “Sugar Moon,” and belt out sassy warnings to anyone who thinks about stealing her man with “Start Running.” Whenever she opens her mouth, it’s magic, pure and simple.
While Davina was definitely in the spotlight for most of the show, the work and talent of her back-up boys should not go unnoticed. The horn section, comprised of Dan Eikmeier on trumpet and Ben Link on trombone, add spice and pizzazz to Davina’s powerful voice. The men also provide solid back-up vocals for many of the songs, and they shine through featured solos (both instrumental and vocal). Add these four men to Davina’s talent and you have an unstoppable group of the finest, most passionate blues performers the Twin Cities has to offer.
Davina and the Vagabonds has become a staple in my events calendar. I try to see them perform at least once or twice a month, and I fall in love with them even more each time. I, like many other Twin Cities folk, simply cannot get enough of DATV. One audience member even confided in me that this was her 55th show. So what do they do that makes their performances simply irresistible? Head on over to davinaandthevagabonds.com to find out.