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LIVE: Ryan Davis – The Fulford Arms, York, 17/06/2024

Ryan Davis is probably a name not familiar to many. One listen to his latest album, Dancing on the Edge – credited to Ryan Davis and the Roadhouse Band – will change all of that. “This is the sound of someone bearing a torch,” says somebody no less than Bill Callahan and you feel sure that come December the record will be lighting up many an end-of-year best albums’ list.

Ryan Davis is a songwriter from Louisville, Kentucky. He has released a few albums under the name of State Champion; played with music collectives Tropical Trash and Equipment Pointed Ankh; founded the highly revered independent record label, Sophomore Lounge; and still had time to develop his talent as a visual artist.

Now, following the release in Europe of Dancing on the Edge last Friday, Ryan Davis is over here to play the EU and UK for the very first time. On this tour he will be playing several dates supporting The Reds, Pinks & Purples – the post-indie project of Glenn Donaldson from San Francisco – as well as a handful of solo shows. Tonight falls into the latter category.

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Armed only with his electric guitar, a table-top full of treatments and effects, plus his trusty melodica, Ryan Davis assumes most admirably the role of the full band that had appeared on Dancing on the Edge as he performs five of the seven songs that feature on that record. Each one is a gloriously labyrinthine exercise in dark Americana, each one part of a fleet of vintage stretch limousines in which to carry the considerable weight of his bleak, poetic, often amusing reflections upon life and death.

‘Bluebirds in a Fight’ mines that deep, unfathomable seam of hopelessness that lies underneath many of the songs on Dancing on the Edge. Yet the ensuing ‘Junk Drawer Heart’ with its brilliant line “but someone’s been fuckin’ with the jukebox again, now it only plays the ‘Sultans of Swing’” serves as a brilliant counterpoint to much of these existential crises.

On ‘Bluebirds Revisited’ and ‘A Suitable Exit’ Ryan Davis’s vocal delivery moves into the territory once occupied by the late, great David Berman, he of Silver Jews and Purple Mountains fame and another most singular, creative, and literate musician. Davis retains the very best to last, though, as he programmes a tribal rhythm and melodica melody to introduce the epic ‘Flashes of Orange.’ Despite its glorious longevity, the song, and the concert is all over far too soon. But it can rest easy safe in the knowledge that just like Dancing on the Edge itself, this performance will surely be one of the highlights of the year.

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Photos: Simon Godley

More photos of Ryan Davis at The Fulford Arms in York

God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.