8 - The Michigan Daily - Wednesday, September 20, 1995
R&B singer goes Big (Cbief)Band
Local favorites Thornetta Davis and Big Chief record for Sub Pop
By Mark Carison
Daily Arts Writer
Detroit area blues singer
Thornetta Davis was once too shy
to sing for anybody but herself. "I
started singing in high school," she
explained, "nobody even knew I
could sing because I was too shy to
get up in front of anybody. Then I
joined the girl's glee class because
I found out that there was no audi-
tion required and I've been singing
If Davis ever really was too fright-
ened-to audition for a choir, one cer-
tainly could never tell by the music
she makes now. Her powerful vocals
come off as anything but shy, grace-
fully gliding over beautiful melodies
and soulfully growling through defi-
ant lyrics. She is a soul queen in the
classic tradition of Aretha Franklin,
Sarah Vaughn and Etta James, yet her
love of music goes far beyond the
standards of classic jazz and R&B
Her most recent work has been with
fellow Detroiters Big Chief, a col-
laboration which seems rather odd on
a surface level. While the differences
between the artists are easily appar-
ent (Big Chief consists entirely of
white, male testosterone-charged su-
per rockers), they share the same vi-
sion that all music should come from
the heart and soul. Said Davis on the
Continued from page 5
Tribute to Black Sabbath:
Be careful. There are a few Sabbath
tribute albums, and this isn't one of the
more impressive ones.
Which doesn't mean it isn't interest-
ing. From a fairly faithful rendition of
"War Pigs" by Sacred Reich to the
matter, "I like all kinds of music.
That's why I'm so easily adaptable to
this rock stuff. I love doing what I'm
doing. I love singing rock. People ask
me if I like doing this kind of music.
I wouldn't do it ifI didn't love it. Ijust
want to perform. No matter what it is,
as long as it's good and I like it, I'll do
Davis has been friends with Big
Chief ever since they brought her in
to work on their second album, Face
(Sub Pop). "They wanted a female
vocalist to do some work on their
album, and they had heard about me
through the owners of the studio they
were recording at. I went in and did
some wailing, and they've liked me
ever since. They put me on their next
album and that's when Sub Pop started
showing interest," said Davis. So, they
recorded one new song and two cov-
ers (James Brown and Funkadelic
tunes), snagged two of Davis' more
prominent tunes from Big Chief's
third LP, the off the wall concept
album / movie soundtrack Mack Av-
enue Skullgame and put out the EP
Shout Out last year on Sub Pop under
the title of "Thornetta Davis With
The Big Chief Band."
The normally grungy record label
apparently thought highly of the ef-
fort and pursued her with a new
idea. "They approached me," said
Davis, "and I wasn't sure about it at
first because I wasn't used to this
kind of music. I had worked with
Big Chief, and I know I had fun
working with them, but I've been
singing blues for eight years, and I
knew they didn't want to hire a
blues act. I asked them 'well, what
are you going to do with me?' And
they said 'We'll figure out some-
thing, all we know is that we want
to sign you. We really want to work
with you.' And so I decided that if
they had the faith in me, then fine."
So Davis has been working on a
project due for release sometime in
January of '96, this time not with the
entire Big Chief Band, but with the
Chiefs' bassist Matt O'Brien, guitar-
ist Phil Durr, and drummer Mike
Danner. There are plans for horns and
other such embellishments, but the
songwriting process has thus far been
pretty stripped down. What to expect
from Davis' latest effort? Davis had
this to say about it: "It'll be more in
the vein of alternative rock type stuff
with my voice. It's a pretty good mix-
ture of R&B and rock stuff. It does
have a definite Big Chief flavor to it,
and they're kind of funky. You know,
Even though this photo shows her with the Chisel Brothers, Thometta Davis will be playing with Big Chief members tonight.
they're funky white guys, and I can
get with that."
Davis keeps herself busy as both a
sort of hired gun blues and jazz singer
with several groups and as the lead
singer for a fun Detroit band called
the Chisel Brothers, who specialize in
classic R&B stuff. She sings with
several groups regularly, including
the Sharecroppers Of Soul, the Blues
Disciples, the Blues Insurgents, and
the Sun Messengers, and she is known
as one of the best voices in Michigan.
Thornetta Davis performs tonight at
Alvin's in Detroit with a stripped
down band that includes the same
three members of Big Chief that she is
recording her album with.
more innovate covers on the album,
"Eternal Masters" is a good enough
metal cover album.
One important problem is that the
songs have all essentially been released
before. For instance, "Electric Funeral,"
covered by Jesters of Destiny, was re-
leased eight years ago. It's always a bit
disheartening to find that a collection
has just been culled from albums.
It still has its moments. It's not often
you hear a Sabbath song sung by a
super-feminine set of pipes, as
"Snowblind" is by the Cords. Or when
one's belted out by a set of cords that
have been pounded on by a meat tender-
izer, as "Zero the Hero" is by Cannibal
It's just another Sabbath cover al-
bum. If you like any of the artists on the
comp enough to want to buy it for them,
you've probably already got the track.
Well, it's probably better than the cur-
rent Dio incarnation of Black Sabbath.
- Ted Watts
Toast to the Ladies
Okay, trivia time. Imagine four men
with the following traits: They're all over
40, two have mustaches like Lamont
Sanford and one has abeardlike his pop's
friend, Grady, they're all a little paunchy
and they each sport one of those 1985
"box" haircuts that went out of style even
before Used Jeans. Who are they? No,
they're not men from the Actuarial Math-
ematicians Convention from Hell. They
are Nicholas Caldwell, Leaveil Degree
and twins Wallace and Walter Scott, bet-
ter known as The Whispers. For thirty
years now they have wowed audiences
with their high-class voices and style.
Now, these men who truly fit the bill
as "soul survivors" want to give a little
"Toast to the Ladies." Comprised of
twelve songs, this LP is akin to musical
love poetry, and the whispers are truly
Poet Laureates. Songs like "Make Sweet
Love to Me" and "Come on Home" are
just what fellas trying to get their sex on
have prayed for. They're slow, seduc-
tive and have an easy-to-move-with
rhythm. The group might hit a few bad
nerves with "Every Little Thing You
Do" which starts off sounding more
like a Bobby "Ain't Nobody Humpin'
Around with Me Except Whitney ...
Sike! !" Brown cut. But, theseguysmore
than make up for this mistake with
"Heaven." Listening to this song, I don't
know why these guys would want to
sing anything but love songs. Even the
faster-groove songs like "Crowd of I"
and "Better Watch Your Heart" are
worth a coupla peeks.
It's amazing how much we of the new
school still rely on old school examples in
our music. (This is mainly true ofrappers.
They use a different old school sample
every time they make a song, and they are
usually all Isley Brothers and Marvin
Gaye songs.) While we may spurn "old
people's music, " the truth is that we'd
probably be lost without that influence.
"A Toast to the Ladies" is a perfect ex-
ample of the difference between romanc-
ing and just being a dog or a ho (e.g.
Jodeci and Adina Howard). It's a nice
- Eugene Bowen
Hey! We got some high-speed harm-
ful rock and roll goin' on here. From the
opening track on their eponymous al-
bum, the Joykiller is on a shoot 'em up
spree based on some fine music.
"Love You More Dead" is about
someone wanting to kill their lover.
The impetus behind it would seem to be
found in the line "And I won't have to
take you to bed." It's almost as ifit were
a new Elvis Hitler album. "Show Me
the System" is more of apolitical song,
but has the same anger and even more
speed in it. The album continues with
more or less angry songs that are for the
most part pretty fast. Take that as an
The songs do sometimes slow down,
but still stay pretty angry. "Seventeen"
is nearly funky, nearly a Skid Row
ballad, but is still about hatred. The
album's hatred themes run the gamut of
hate in love, hate of politics, the kind of
hate postal workers have, stalker's ha-
tred, sex hatred and hatred of work. Not
too shabby a bill of goods. Hate every-
thing except this album.
See RECORDS, page 9
The Polos are
Bivouac now carries Polo Ralph Lauren.
Including the Grand Canyon line, new fir fall.
INS story or XEnua
Tonight and tomorrow evening only, the Michigan Theater is presenting director
Yin L's moving and expressive film, "The Story of Xinghua." The movie stars Jang
Wenli as Xinghua, a humble rural housewife in present day reformist China who is
unable to bear an heir for her greedy and overbearing husband. While he spends
his days tearing down Isolated parts of the far northern Great Wall and selling
them for profit, Xinghua toils in the fields and prepares dinner for her husband and
their guests. Despite her husband's repeated rapes and beatings, Xinghua
manages to escape reality by finding her true love and dreaming of living a happy
and peaceful life. Breathtakingly beautiful cinematography captures this fictional
story of one woman's survival amidst horrible circumstances. It is a troubling tale
whose subject matter is, at the very least, unpleasant. Nevertheless, "The Story
of Xinghua" Is, more Importantly, a romantic glimpse into the mind of a persons
strong in will and enriched with faith and good fortune.
Quality Outdoor Clothing &' Equipment
For a band named Joykiller, it sure looks like these guys are having lots of fun.
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Ann Arbor Civic Theatre
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