RACHAEL DAVIS on "Acoustic Alternatives", Sunday 10am-1pm, January 16th
When Rachael Davis first opened her mouth to sing she had clear tone, sharp control, an extensive range and a keen understanding about the nature of a tune, which were all unusual for a two-year-old. At five-years-old she learned to sing harmony to the mountain songs her mother sang to her, at eight she earned five dollars for her first paying gig with the family band Lake Effect. At nine-years-old Rachael took up piano and started writing the songs that would ultimately prime her for her future as a songwriter. At twelve she took her first guitar lesson, at fourteen she began performing without her parents. At fifteen, sixteen and seventeen-years-old Rachael was writing songs that laid bare wisdom which widely exceeded her years. When Rachael was eighteen her father put his Bart Reiter banjo in her hands and taught her how to play claw hammer banjo. Rachael will joke that by doing this, her father had cursed her for life, but the reality is that he had allowed his daughter to discover her first devastating love in the lilting splendor of a well played old-timey tune. At twenty Rachael recorded and released her first album “Minor League Deities” that was a collection of the songs she had been writing during her teenage years. The album won critical accolades in the acoustic music scene and acclaim among folk music listeners. The year after “Deities” was released Davis took her song and dance from the comfort of her Midwestern upbringing to the roar of the east. She made a place for herself in Boston, Massachusetts where she found good friends, reticent success and new influences that would catapult her into the next stage of songwriting. Coming into her own as she played for passers by on the city’s sidewalks and subway platforms Rachael started drawing musical inspiration from sources that weren’t in her parents’ substantial vinyl collection. She was discovering new artists with new sounds and new songs all on her own. Whether they were contemporary sounds that the world at large was hearing for the first time, or they were the classics that Davis was encountering for the first time. Rachael found sanctuary in basement level record stores and Boston’s premier acoustic music clubs. She fell in love with the voices of Patty Griffin, Aoife O’Donovan [Crooked Still] and Deb Talan [The Weepies]. Rachael began to listen with a discerning ear to the songwriting of Gillian Welch and Greg Brown, got a few performance tips from stage veterans like Vance Gilbert and Cheryl Wheeler and even got the guided tour, a time, or two, from Josh Ritter, who was a local at that time, and indie rock’s parade float princess, Mary Lou Lord. These influences and experiences set a heavy hand on the artist that Rachael is today.
Because Davis has been swayed by so many different types of music her style is difficult to file and will not languorously rest amid broader musical genres. Rachael’s slant on acoustic music can aptly be explained by a mixed cassette tape that her father played during her early childhood in the family’s Chevy Cavalier station wagon “Iggy”. On one side of the cassette was the soundtrack for the film The Big Chill on the other side was John Hartford’s “Areoplane”. Countless hours of riding and listening during such a critical period for a receptive child had a lasting impression and thus created Davis’ very own category of acoustic music that she amorously calls ‘Motown-Banjo’.
In the time of her 10 year solo career Rachael has released 4 albums including one collaboration with the Lansing, Michigan based American-roots band Steppin’ In It and one live record with long-time musical partner Brett Hartenbach [Daniel Johnston] that came out of a live radio show recorded in Breman, Germany in May of 2004. Davis has lent her voice to countless other recordings including tracks for film, television and guest vocals on other records.
Right now Rachael is living in Bath, Michigan with her husband, accomplished bassist Dominic John Davis [Steppin’ In It], where she is presently immersed in her latest project…. Three-year-old Virgil Ryman Davis.