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David Davis & The Warrior River Boys have produced a masterful and exciting collection of songs originally recorded in the 1920s by the legendary Charlie Pooleand his North Carolina Ramblers, a generation before Bill Monroe is credited with founding bluegrass music. “Our intention was to evolve the songs, yet leave the strength and essence of the original feel as our foundation and build on that,” explains Davis.
Didn’t He Ramble is eagerly anticipated in bluegrass circles. Co-producer Davis is a veteran picker who has appeared on numerous classic bluegrass recordings, and a recipient of countless awards in bluegrass and country music. In recent years Davis has been quietly challenging the notion that to be faithful to traditional bluegrass necessitates exclusively channeling Monroe-or other first-generation bluegrass legends, such as The Stanley Brothers and Flatt & Scruggs. Now, with the release of Didn’t He Ramble, Davis is seeking to nudge discussions about the origins of bluegrass back a generation.
This isn’t a tribute album in the traditional sense: the band has taken Poole’s songs and re-imagined them to fit the modern music landscape. “The idea of recording a tribute to Charlie Poole was very interesting to us,” muses Davis. “For a number of years we had mentioned him as our candidate for ‘Grandfather of Bluegrass Music.’ The best tribute that we could offer was to try to take the key elements from Poole’s music and evolve that into more modern forms of traditional music, stating our case for Poole being not only a worthy candidate for ‘Grandfather of Bluegrass,’ but actually ‘Grandfather’ for a much broader roots music family.” Davis continues, “This particular recording contains the most extensive variety of traditional roots styles that we have ever included on one recording, it’s a marriage of old-time tunes melded with bluegrass instrumentation, rhythm, and harmonies.”
Didn’t He Ramble was produced by banjo player Robert Montgomery & David Davis and recorded by Gary Gordon at Inside Out Studio in Sparta, Illinois. The album revisits 15 timeless tunes from the Charlie Poole songbook, all written by Poole and Norman Woodlieff, infusing such rousing numbers as “He Rambled,” “If The River Was Whiskey,” “May I Sleep In Your Barn Tonight, Mister?,” “Milwaukee Blues” and “White House Blues.” The Warrior River Boys bring fresh energy and their own musical identity to the original versions, which have become enduring classics. “Selecting fifteen songs from Poole’s 80 recorded song repertoire was not easy, but we know that a number of different styles are represented on the recording, giving it a broader palette,” says Davis.
Davis joined The Warrior River Boys in 1983 and quickly became the band leader. Today the five piece band encompasses Alabama Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame member (and leading practitioner of traditional bluegrass for more than 30 years) Davis on mandolin and vocals; plus co-producer and award-winning banjo player Robert Montgomery, who played a pivotal role in selecting the songs for this release; renowned bass player Marty Hays; singer-songwriter and master guitarist Stan Wilemon; and luthier and fiddle player Phillip James.
Bluegrass music has been Davis’ life-long calling, and he brings the same intensity to interpreting Charlie Poole material as he does to the world of traditional bluegrass. Collectively, the depth and breadth of the Warrior River Boys’ ability is a bandleader’s dream and brings Didn’t He Ramble to life.