By Matthew Martin
To be honest, I had only really just heard of Ward Davis. I knew that he was a helluva songwriter and was always being lauded by Cody Jinks. I knew that he was a co-writer of one of my favorite Jinks songs, "I'm Not The Devil." But, I wasn't really familiar with his music. But, when I saw that the incredible Charles Wesley Godwin was going to be opening up for him, I knew I was going to go. Then, they switched up the show and made it a free show. That made it even better. So, we got some friends together and went to Pearl Street Warehouse in D.C.'s newly updated Wharf area.
To start the evening, Ward Davis's bassist (whose name I did not write down and cannot remember for the life of me) started with a few songs. Here I will admit that I could not hear the songs that well. The acoustics this evening at Pearl Street Warehouse left much to be desired. There was an open window in the back which may have resulted in the solo musician being drowned out by the voices inside and outside of the bar. The songs were fine enough, but I just couldn't hear them well enough to have a strong opinion one way or the other.
Next, Charles Wesley Godwin was up and while the mix was also still a little messed up in the bar, the songs still stood out. I know I mentioned this before, but I think CWG is special. I think this debut solo album is special. I think the stories CWG tells of West Virginia are important for everyone to hear. We hear country songs about beer, women, and backroads enough. We don't hear what it's like for real, honest country folks living their lives through the ups and downs of wars and energy industry downturns. That being said, I did have the advantage to lots of folks (but, not all, for sure) in that I knew most of the songs and was able to make the sounds I couldn't quite hear out in my head. This was nothing against CWG, mind you. He sang his heart out, he played his heart out. It's just the sound at the venue was very much off this night for a solo act. However, that didn't stop folks from loving what they were hearing. Some who were talking quite loudly during the first act shut up immediately to try and strain and hear every word coming from the stage. I found out shortly after that there were a few people who had driven 3 hours to come see CWG open for Ward Davis. That is special, y'all. I remember hearing stories like that about American Aquarium. CWG has struck a chord and his momentum will continue to grow.
Finally, Ward Davis was up. He's a heavy-hitter. He's pure country gold. He's honky tonk. He's everything I wanted to hear. He started the night off on his trusty telecaster, slinging out classics like "Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way" to his collaboration with Cody Jinks "I'm Not The Devil." His band was tight. The sound that was plaguing the first two acts didn't quite plague Davis as the band was able to drown out a lot of the chatter and really wash over folks. Speaking of the band, the guitarist was great. He hit every note like a seasoned veteran and he looked like he couldn't be a day over 21. Midway through the set Davis switched over to his piano and played some more introspective tunes which included his songs from his latest EP Asunder. The sincerity and simplicity with which Davis tells a story is stunning. The range he has as a musician- storytelling-wise, I mean- is something to behold. He can throw down shit-kicking boot-stompers or he can lay down beautiful heartbreaking tunes about divorce. Not to mention, he can cover a song like "Time To Move On" by Tom Petty and make it sound like it's his own song. He was impressive by all measures. I was disappointed to know that he only has 1 full album and 1 EP out there. I want, no need, more music from Ward Davis. His peers (Jinks, Whitey Morgan) are putting out incredible music at a breakneck pace these days. He can add to that and bring his own unique sound and style to the table.
As always, if you see these folks coming anywhere near you, go see them. Go give em a hug. Go buy anything and everything you can from them. They are making music that deserves to be heard and they deserve every ounce of success they get from their hard work.
(Not from the Pearl Street Warehouse show)