Artist Watch: Wherefore Art Thou...Alana Davis?

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

It's lazy to dub Alana Davis the Joan Amstrading of her generation...or even the Tracey Chapman of the 90's/2000's. Just because a sista has a guitar and some poetics, doesn't mean they are all one in the same. Still it's nice to put her in the leagues of strummers before her as she does deserve to hang there, and sing her song. New York native, Alana Davis and her music is what you would expect to hear coming from coffee houses around college campuses. Her relaxed and reflective vibe is folk meets Blues, yet its down-right soulful, and yet still accessible enough to be appreciated by all. And her voice was a earthy husky drawl, similar to Chapman, but with a bit of a honey sweet touch. Yet, while Davis provoked memories of those naturalized singer-songwriter types that flooded the music scene in the early to mid 70's, she was still unfamiliar to well, a lot. Davis emerged in 1997 by putting a soulful spin on Ani DiFranco's angsty "32 Flavors." Indie purists got a little peeved, while others were intrigued as Davis took the song and made it literally her own. Still nobody really latched on, even though her debut album, Blame It On Me, was chock filled with songs that seemed ripped from pages of coffee stained journals and derived from sleepless nights of inner-soul searching. Maybe picking a cover as her introduction to the world was her plight, still, bolder moves would be made.


In 1999, Davis made an appearance on Jay-Z's track, "There's Been A Murder" from Life & Times Of S. Carter, which possibly led her to gather attention in the hip-hop community. In 2002, Davis was set to make a commercial arrival, with her album, Fortune Cookies. She had the producing talents of The Neptunes aka Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo at her side to guide her in that direction of mainstream gold. The three crafted a couple of tracks (two which have resurfaced), but only one made the cut and it was the saucy punch of, "Bye Bye". For the most part, "Bye Bye" was a perfect piece of funk marrying hip-hop, yet some have cited that its an ultimate clone of Nikka Costa's "Like A Feather". The Fortune Cookies album, as a whole, was better than the single of "Bye Bye", and if someone had marketed the album past that, who knows what would've happened? Fortune Cookies merged in heavier beats, sweeping orchestral elements, warm soulful sounds, and a fantastic cover of Whodini's "How Many Of Us Have Them (Friends)". Should've been a winner right? Unfortunately not so. Davis, a little bemused with the mainstream and how she was being promoted, departed from label Elektra, and embarked to becoming an independent artist. She founded Tigeress Records and released her third and last known album, Surrender Dorothy in 2005. Yet another fine collection of tracks that went terribly unnoticed.


In retrospect, if you really stew over it, Alana was one of the first unsung vocalist that initially pushed to the singer-songwriter revival in the 2000's with such acts like Alicia Keys, Nelly Furtado, Corrine Bailey Rae and Norah Jones being ones who made it "in vogue" to be piano and guitar bound, pen in hand and heart on sleeve. Yet, every time I mention Alana Davis, I'm usually met with a collective: "Who?" Alana Davis' sound is scarce these days, her official webpage is down, and her MySpace hasn't been updated in ages...maybe she's in the studio brewing up new tunes, touring, or maybe she's doing a Rip Van Winkle and forgot to set the alarm clock...These days, with all the cookie cutter acts out there, Alana Davis is quite a welcomed departure from those ever so generic sounds of Top 40 radio. With a likable sound quality, a haunting vocal display and carefully derived compositions, Davis is the artist for the thinking music listener...still, where is she?

2 comments:

  1. I hope she releases some new music. she is one of my favorite artists.

    ReplyDelete
  2. *claps hands* Oh, I'm glad someone else likes Alana Davis, like I! Not too many people know of her. Got a favorite song/album?

    I really like her 'Fortune Cookies' album, it's a straight through listen for me with "When You Became King" my favorite track.

    ReplyDelete

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