The B-Side: Barrett Davis

Some genres live and die by authenticity, and certainly American roots music is one of those. This isn’t to say that English boys with banjos can’t occasionally write a good tune, but it’s just not the same. There’s something about growing up with the mountain mist in your lungs and the ghosts of pickers and fiddlers and yodelers echoing through the holler while you sleep that makes it different. Barrett Davis is different. Born and raised and still residing in the mountains of North Carolina, there’s a tempered weariness to his voice that sounds like lineage, sounds like respect. Davis uses it in “The Ballad of Aesop Fin” first to comfort us, to give us those old time feels (albeit with a thoroughly modern indie folk production and arrangement) with a simple but catchy melody, telling us the tale of hard luck rambler – a song tradition as old as songs themselves. But as the song builds toward the end, the voice soars and pushes the whole affair out of traditionalism and into something else entirely. The transition feels natural but that makes it no less striking, and elevates the song to something really special.

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