Josi Davis: Devotion Personified

There’s a not so-secret secret about the way Josi Davis produced and recorded her new CD, “Evolution of Love.”

It’s live.

She, John Van Ness and Carl Franklin produced the 12-track menu of songs in a highly organized 18-hour weekend whirlwind at PWOP! Studios in New London, Ct. last July.

It matters, because Saturday, Josi and the accomplished musicians on the album will be reproducing “Evolution of Love” live at The Barn at Old Orchard Farm in East Lyme. The performance undoubtedly will make you rock and sway, because that little black and red compact disk has the power to do that on its own on a modest sound system in my living room.

It matters, because this live recording packs a punch: crisp, clean, vibrant instrumentation, articulate lyrics, and stories about love, falling in, falling out, and no worse the wear, eventually for that.

The songs progress, like a fine six-course meal, through a tempestuous tango, the metaphors of exploding stars or train travel, and love lost, ending on a note of rapturous adoration. “It’s true,” she sings in “I Don’t Mind,”  I’d rather hold you than lose you to the world, and as I wonder why I’m fighting to hold onto you, I’m reminded that you’re standing by my side.”

The fourth track, “What I Want,” might use a diesel train as a metaphor for the trip up the steep hill of commitment and around the bend of lust on a run towards a dream, but it just simply makes you want to move when you hear it. It’s got a driving drum beat, punctuated by masterful lead guitar and lyrical repetition building to a vocal crescendo: “I wanna love you, Yeah.”

The bold mix of jazz, southern roots and blues alternates between moody introspection and catchy, pulsing rhythms. Sample it here.

Franklin mixed and mastered the album, luring in trumpet player Doug Woolverton, Davis said in a recent interview. Van Ness brought in organist Anthony Cafiero. Twelve musicians, all told, make this work jell, including the producers, with Davis on acoustic guitar, piano, and rhodes as well as vocals.

The songs are “all very emotional,” Davis concedes. “Each one is a ride in itself. When you’re listening to the whole thing it can be very intense.”

The songs work on many levels: some originated in personal experience, some in the experiences she watched loved ones go through.

Davis wrote “Supernova” in memory of her grandmother, helpless to save her husband from a heart attack.

“We’re all pieces of the cosmos,” Josi says. “‘There’s a star for every life that goes on living,'” she adds. “That’s the line that wrote that song.”

“You Can’t Take My Heart” is written in the voice of an acquaintance who came home from directing a play in another country to find her husband had found another woman. But while Davis made a deep personal connection that allowed her to speak in another’s voice, she also transposed that experience to a more universal one. And it’s what the listener brings to the song, she says, that makes that song a living thing.

“I know where the story of the song comes from,” she reminds us, “but when you listen to a song I don’t want to steal the story that might come from you.”

So come down to the Barn Saturday. At 7 p.m., the show will go on. Live. A work of devotion, about devotion in its many forms.

To steal a line from one of the songs, “This magic must be love.”

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