David Davis sings Charlie Poole

In 2005 when David Davis was looking for material for his then next album, Troubled Times (Rebel REB-CD 1817), a friend and confidante prompted Davis to record the Charlie Poole song Milwaukee Blues.

It proved to be a good suggestion, as the Davis arrangement of the song proved to be popular with festival audiences, and later with record buyers and DJs. 

The recording also impressed Ken Irwin of Rounder Records and, having long been a Charlie Poole fan, Irwin mentioned that Davis should do an entire album of Charlie Poole material. Irwin “thought that he could do a good job on other Poole songs and at the time, very few people were covering that repertoire.”

“While David’s voice works well with old-time as well as bluegrass material, I always felt that he had an old soul and loved older material and it was the band’s attitude on Milwaukee Blues which made me feel that they could do justice to the Poole repertoire.”

“Fast-forward nine years, it’s December 2014, the band is in Nashville at a benefit show,” says Davis in a recent blog. Irwin was present also and as Davis relates, Irwin enquired, “’have you thought any more about doing that Charlie Poole album that I mentioned to you ten years ago?’ I told him truthfully I hadn’t, but it was a good idea!”

Charlie Poole

That is the story behind the forthcoming David Davis album Didn’t He Ramble: Songs of Charlie Poole (Rounder 1166100347). 

David Davis & the Warrior River Boys, with banjo player Robert Montgomery sharing the producing role, have chosen 14 songs from Charlie Poole’s recorded repertoire of 80, all written by Poole and Norman Woodlieff (guitarist in Poole’s North Carolina Ramblers). 

Of those songs, some are well-known to Poole followers; including Sweet Sunny South, Old and Only in the Way, White House Blues, If the River Was Whiskey, Ramblin’ Blues and May I Sleep In Your Barn Tonight, Mister?

In the unexpected, but none-the-less welcome category are a reprise of Milwaukee Blues and Where the Whippoorwill Is Whispering Goodnight, which was recorded by Loudon Wainwright III in 2009. 

Assisting Davis (mandolin and vocals) are Robert Montgomery (banjo and vocals), Marty Hays (bass and vocals), Stan Wilemon (guitar) and special musical guest Billy Hurt (fiddle).

David Davis rounds out the story ……

“We did the recording in Sparta, IL. at Gary Gordon’s Inside – Out Studios starting in July 2015, working as our road schedule and Gary’s schedule allowed and by August 2016 we had finished. Gary finished mixing by December and I asked Gary to send the master to Ken at Rounder. I called Ken and told him that we had recorded that Charlie Poole project that we were talking about two years earlier and it needed a home. Luckily, he, Marion Leighton-Levy and Bill Nowlin did love the record and agreed to promote the project.

I hadn’t even mentioned to Ken that we were going to do the album, he didn’t know anything about it until Gary sent him the master.

Later on, I was happy to hear how foundational Charlie Poole and his music was to the three original Rounders. This fact made their accepting our treatment of the material even more pleasing to us. Also, the ultra- care that they, as well as the Rounder Nashville family, have given to every aspect of the album’s production has been wonderful!”

This new recording, Didn’t He Ramble: Songs of Charlie Poole is scheduled for release on June 1, 2018. 

In the meantime, the first track, He Rambled, is available now. 

The full track listing (14 songs) is as follows… 

He Rambled; One Moonlight Night; Ramblin’ Blues; May I Sleep In Your Barn Tonight, Mister?; Girl I Left In Sunny Tennessee; The Highwayman; Leaving Home; Goodbye Mary Dear; Milwaukee Blues; Old and Only In The Way; White House Blues; If The River Was Whiskey; Where The Whippoorwill Is Whispering Goodnight and Sweet Sunny South.

David Davis & The Warrior River Boys will embark on a tour beginning tomorrow at The Old School House in Lucketts, Virginia, before traveling throughout most of eastern north America, including a stop at Station Inn in Nashville, Tennessee. More dates will be announced soon.

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About the Author

Richard Thompson

Richard F. Thompson is a long-standing free-lance writer specialising in bluegrass music topics. A two-time Editor of British Bluegrass News, he has been seriously interested in bluegrass music since about 1970. As well as contributing to that magazine, he has, in the past 30 plus years, had articles published by Country Music World, International Country Music News, Country Music People, Bluegrass Unlimited, MoonShiner (the Japanese bluegrass music journal) and Bluegrass Europe. He wrote the annotated series I'm On My Way Back To Old Kentucky, a daily memorial to Bill Monroe that culminated with an acknowledgement of what would have been his 100th birthday, on September 13, 2011.