PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.


Jesse Ed Davis: Red Dirt Boogie - The Atco Recordings 1970-1972

A tight musical structure itself was considered uncool when being free was the highest value. The 19 tracks on this anthology embody this type of loose approach.

Jesse Ed Davis

Red Dirt Boogie: The Atco Recordings 1970-1972

Label: Real Gone Music
US Release Date: 2017-06-09

It doesn’t take long for the music on the newly released collection of Jesse Ed Davis’ Red Dirt Boogie - The Atco Recordings 1970-1972 for things to break down into chaotic party noises. In fact, this happens about halfway through the first song, “Every Night Is Saturday Night”. Before the track is over, it sounds like everyone in the band is banging away separately at their instruments and lost somewhere inside their own head. Being out of control can be a worthy goal. It allows one to explore and share. Back in the early '70s, this pandemonium was the hallmark of a good jam.

A tight musical structure itself was considered uncool when being free was the highest value. The 19-tracks on this anthology embody this type of loose approach. The tunes are ragged and shaggy, but that doesn’t mean the players can’t play. Indeed, the opposite is true. It’s because the musicians are so good that they can let things flow and turn the seemingly shapeless melodies into supple riffs that twist and turn.

Guitarist Davis was the consummate sideman of this era because of his ability to boogie without dropping a beat and always finding his way back to the heart of a song. That’s why former Beatles’ John Lennon, Ringo Starr, and George Harrison all hired him to perform on their individual projects. That’s him playing lead on Jackson Browne’s first hit, “Doctor My Eyes”, on Leonard Cohen’s Phil Spector produced Death of a Ladies Man, Gene Clark’s classic White Light and too many other notable records to mention. Before these Atco recordings, Davis was best-known for his role in Taj Mahal’s band. On these recordings Davis himself is backed up by notables such as Eric Clapton, Gram Parsons, and Leon Russell.

Davis’ two Atco albums received good press but poor sales during their original issue dates and have been out of print for many years. Seventeen out of the 19 tracks (and two alternate takes) appear here in newly remastered form. While the music itself is purposely unkempt, the sound is clear and crisp. On cuts such as Merle Haggard’s “White Line Fever”, Davis’ original “Reno Street Incident” and George Harrison’s “Sue Me, Sue You Blues” (recorded before Harrison did), Davis’ guitar rings out strong and sharp with an accusatory edge. He lashes the strings the way a whip master cracks his cat-o’-nine-tails.

However, Davis always sounds friendly. His voice remains conversational. Even when he’s singing about the mistreatment of Native Americans on “Alcatraz”, Davis sounds centered. Sure, he is pissed by the hypocrisy and mendacity he observes, but he offers wisdom more than anger. The guitar itself conveys the rage. There’s nothing words can say that a good lick can’t say better.

As tracks such as “Washita Love Child”, “Rock ‘N’ Roll Gypsies”, and “Farther on Down the Road” show, Davis uses introspection to discover what gives him pleasure. He reflects to move forward. Consequently, the songs still hold up well after all these years. There has been recent attention paid to Davis thanks to the new documentary film Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked the World. Davis, who died of a drug overdose at age 43 in 1988, certainly merits renewed consideration.


Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.





Artemis Is the Latest Jazz Supergroup

A Blue Note supergroup happens to be made up of women, exclusively. Artemis is an inconsistent outing, but it dazzles just often enough.


Horrors in the Closet: A Closet Full of Monsters

A closet full of monsters is a scary place where "straight people" can safely negotiate and articulate their fascination and/or dread of "difference" in sexuality.


'Wildflowers & All the Rest' Is Tom Petty's Masterpiece

Wildflowers is a masterpiece because Tom Petty was a good enough songwriter by that point to communicate exactly what was on his mind in the most devastating way possible.


Jazz Composer Maria Schneider Takes on the "Data Lords" in Song

Grammy-winning jazz composer Maria Schneider released Data Lords partly as a reaction to her outrage that streaming music services are harvesting the data of listeners even as they pay musicians so little that creativity is at risk. She speaks with us about the project.


The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 100-81

PopMatters' best albums of the 2000s begin with a series of records that span epic metal, ornate indie folk, and a terrifying work of electronic music.


The Power of Restraint in Sophie Yanow, Paco Roca, and Elisa Macellari's New Graphic Novels

The magical quality that makes or breaks a graphic novel lies somewhere in that liminal space in which art and literature intersect.


'People of the City' Is an Unrelenting Critique of Colonial Ideology and Praxis

Cyprian Ekwensi's People of the City is a vivid tale of class struggle and identity reclamation in the shadows of colonialism's reign.


1979's 'This Heat' Remains a Lodestone for Avant-Rock Adventure

On their self-titled debut, available for the first time on digital formats, This Heat delivered an all-time classic stitched together from several years of experiments.


'The Edge of Democracy' and Parallels of Political Crises

Academy Award-nominated documentary The Edge of Democracy, now streaming on Netflix, lays bare the political parallels of the rise of Bolsonaro's Brazil with Trump's America.


The Pogues' 'The BBC Sessions 1984-1986' Honors Working-Class Heroes

The Pogues' BBC Sessions 1984-1986 is a welcome chapter in the musical story of these working-class heroes, who reminded listeners of the beauty and dignity of the strong, sooty backs upon which our industrialized world was built.


Mary Halvorson Creates Cacophony to Aestheticize on 'Artlessly Falling'

Mary Halvorson's Artlessly Falling is a challenging album with tracks comprised of improvisational fragments more than based on compositional theory. Halvorson uses the various elements to aestheticize the confusing world around her.


15 Overlooked and Underrated Albums of the 1990s

With every "Best of the '90s" retrospective comes a predictable list of entries. Here are 15 albums that are often overlooked as worthy of placing in these lists, and are too often underrated as some of the best records from the decade.


'A Peculiar Indifference' Takes on Violence in Black America

Pulitzer Prize finalist Elliott Currie's scrupulous investigation of the impacts of violence on Black Americans, A Peculiar Indifference, shows the damaging effect of widespread suffering and identifies an achievable solution.


20 Songs From the 1990s That Time Forgot

Rather than listening to Spotify's latest playlist, give the tunes from this reminiscence of lost '90s singles a spin.


Delightful 'Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day' Is Good Escapism

Now streaming on Amazon Prime, Bharat Nalluri's 2008 romantic comedy, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, provides pleasant respite in these times of doom and gloom.


The 10 Best Horror Movie Remakes

The horror genre has produced some remake junk. In the case of these ten treats, the update delivers something definitive.


Flirting with Demons at Home, or, When TV Movies Were Evil

Just in time for Halloween, a new Blu-ray from Kino Lorber presents sparkling 2K digital restorations of TV movies that have been missing for decades: Fear No Evil (1969) and its sequel, Ritual of Evil (1970).


Magick Mountain Are Having a Party But Is the Audience Invited?

Garage rockers Magick Mountain debut with Weird Feelings, an album big on fuzz but light on hooks.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.