East Side Slim
Davis – “Funny Stuff”
Larry Davis grew up in Arkansas, working
with Fenton Robinson in the mid-50s. He started
recording for Duke in 1958 with “Texas Flood”
(the original version by the way - and likely still
the best.) He signed to Duke at the recommendation
of Bobby Bland. Larry recorded sporadically over
the years and passed away in 1994.
Davis was an extraordinary talent. He had a tremendous
voice, with a soft vibrato. He sang in the B.B.
King, Little Joe Blue, Bobby Bland style. His biting
single-not guitar work could be placed somewhere
between the sounds of B.B. King and Son Seals. He
had more edge in his playing than King, but it wasn’t
as harsh as Seals. “Funny Stuff” was
originally released in 1982, and was re-released
on CD by Rooster Blues in 2001. This review is based
on the 2001 version of the album. “Funny Stuff”
is basically Larry Davis’ St. Louis album.
All of the musicians on the album were St. Louis
stalwarts. The cast of characters was: Oliver Sain
on piano, organ and all saxes; Phil Westmoreland
on guitar; Johnnie Johnson on piano; Billy Gayles
on drums; Jimmy Hinds on bass and drums; Eugene
Johnson on bass; and Don Smith on drums. The album
has all the features of the St. Louis blues sounds,
with a combination of raw emotion mixed with Uptown
1. Funny Stuff – Larry’s
having some trouble here with his Louisiana woman.
She’s been putting the hex on his mojo!
2. Teardrops – A slow blues number.
Larry works the lyric hard, with St. Louis’
finest backing him in great style. This is a very
tasty, intense slow-boiling track.
3. Next Time You See Me – Yep, it’s
the old standard, set at a nice mid-tempo lope. Great
sax fills and solos by Oliver Sain. Larry’s
voice really shines here, and he supplies some tasty
never-in-a-hurry guitar solos.
4. Worried Dream – slooowwwwww blues
number. The slower tunes on this album, such as this
song, showcase Davis’ vocal abilities. It makes
me want to put on my Fenton Robinson albums…
This tune is very much in that vein. The song has
a long, quiet intro, building in intensity throughout.
Great moaning horns give a real feel of melancholy
to the song.
5 . Totsy – Two pianos playing on this
one folks. Oliver Sain’s playing can be heard
on the left channel, and Johnnie Johnson’s work
can be heard on the right channel. The song is a mid-tempo
instrumental similar in basic structure to “Next
Time You See Me”. The difference here (besides
having no vocals) is that Larry and Phil Westmoreland
are taking solo guitar turns throughout.
6. Since I Been Loving You –
Subtly funky little track, with Westmoreland playing
bass. Davis is singing the tale of the improvement
in his life brought about by having a good woman in
7. That Will Never Do – Now
this one has Larry singing about the damage his woman
has wrought in his life due to her selfish wicked
ways. Great Son Seals-like guitar lines are heard,
with horns honking along. This tune is the blues.
8. Walk Out Like A Lady – This
is an atmospheric slow blues, with organ and horns
feeding the somber mood. GREAT vocals here, as Larry
makes you feel the heartache he’s feeling as
his woman leaves his/their home for another man. Deep!
9. Fine ‘em, Fool ‘em & Forget
‘em – It’s a mid-tempo
funky track, telling the tale of a father admonishing
his son to find girls, do what you have to do, and
then forget them. Don’t get attached son! Ah,
Larry didn’t head that advice…he got himself
hooked on one woman and ended up hurt and is now singing
and playing about it.
10. Got To Be Some Changes Made –
the set closing track, it’s one last slower
blues. The song is definitely reminiscent vocally
of Bobby Bland’s old heartbreak tunes when he
was with Duke. Take that and mix it with an Albert
King musical vibe and you have a good idea of what
this track sounds like. Vocal passages pull the energy
in, penning it up, and then the instrumental passages
release the raw emotion. Very cool, very well done.
“Funny Stuff” is a wonderful old-school
blues album. Nothing fancy here, no tricks, just great
music. If you are a fan of great singers and ensemble
playing, then this CD is for you. It does a fine job
of showcasing the St. Louis blues sound, also. I’m
giving this a 4 of 5 on the blues-o-meter.
Lee 'East Side Slim' Howland