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Album Review

Son of Dave is Benjamin Darvill, former Crash Test Dummy and now a dyed-in-the-wool blues phenomenon. After years on the road with a major band, Darvill fled to London, where he reconsidered his musical direction. When he got back to Canada, he was Son of Dave, a bluesman who dressed in sharp '50s-style three-piece suits and a wide-brim fedora. Dave plays the blues on harmonica with the help of a loop pedal that allows him to solo over rhythm parts he creates live. He shouts, sings, mutters obscene asides, breathes hard, and — one assumes — sweats profusely as he wails out his down-and-dirty tales of cheating women, booze, hard times, and low life. This may sound like a gimmick, but Dave is damn musical and his songs, be they his own or classics, jump out of the speakers with their raw urgency. The tunes sound like they were cut live in the studio or perhaps a deserted barroom — hard to tell — but they brim over with pure manic energy. Muddy's "Mannish Boy" is given an unusual feel by Dave's childlike falsetto vocal over a rumbling harmonica bassline and foot-stomped rhythm. Dave's grunted beatbox rhythm loops in and the vocals slowly develop a grunting, snarling, definitely mannish tone. "Leave Without Runnin'" features a whispered vocal, a grunted rhythm, and primitive harp work that pulls you down into a swamp full of hungry animals and feral musicians. "Get You Back" has a gasping, primordial vocal that's so garbled that it becomes another rhythmic element in a song that oozes nasty sexuality. The rhythm on "I Got What You Need" is a looped vocal bassline and Dave's stomping foot. The vocal is an inviting purr, and the harmonica weaves in and around the vocal, alternately fluttering and delivering minimal single-note accents. Two songs — "Devil Take My Soul" and "Life Is So Easy Now" — include what sound like sustained notes from an organ or electric piano, but they could be sampled and processed harmonica lines. "Devil Take My Soul" features the vocals of Martina Topley-Bird. It's a strutting song of seduction; Topley-Bird's harmonies are sweet and bluesy, while the gospel-drenched melismas she adds to the background give the track a spiritual lift. "Life Is So Easy Now" loops Dave's vocal pops and pants over a few well-placed sustained electric piano and organ notes, for a hip-hop-flavored song that's as much R&B as it is blues. As it unfolds, adding more and more vocal harmonies, it starts sounding like a boy band ballad for folks who hate boy bands. Son of Dave has come up with an unusual, deconstructed approach to the blues that blends high-tech methods with primeval soul, and it works amazingly well. ~ j. poet, Rovi


Born: 2006 in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '00s

Son of Dave makes music that fuses the past and the present, as a man in a vintage suit with a harmonica shouts, stomps, and howls the blues but uses a sampler to loop human beatbox-style rhythm patterns that give his country blues-influenced tunes the gritty groove of contemporary funk and hip-hop. Son of Dave is a one-man band starring Benjamin Darvill, who had previously won an international following playing guitar and mandolin with the Canadian alternative pop band Crash Test Dummies. When Crash...
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O2, Son of Dave
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