Robert Davis moved here from Kingston in 1981, playing harmonica and learning guitar while teaching in community college and working with the homeless. He was also learning Spanish and would regularly visit Cuba to play with band called Bluespirit. He formed a band here called Up the Line, which was a finalist in the 2007 Talent Search. Fraser Melvin is a very talented guitarist and arranger about town, currently playing with Bad Luck Woman & Her Misfortunes and you heard some of his amazing charts at the Women’s Blues revue last fall. As Davis points out, Cuban blues is not that much of a stretch: after all, the Bo Diddley beat is a Cuban clave rhythm. Cuban musicians Yasel Giralt and Pedro Pérez Quintero round out the quartet and they play a variety of instruments in these sessions recorded in Cuba last May. Conga drums drive the opening “Got My Mojo Workin’” as it gets the Cuban street party treatment. Davis delivers a fine “Sittin’ On Top of The World” with some local lyric changes and Yasel Giralt picking the Cuban laud. Quintero plays the bassline on a potbellied earthenware jug and a marimbula. The distance from New Orleans to Cuba is much shorter and Ernie K-Doe’s “Mother in Law’ sees Fraser Melvin taking the vocal with Davis on harmonica over some distinctively Cuban percussion.
Comments from Norma the studio cleaner are included and although she’s speaking Spanish it’s quite clear she’s taking the mother in law’s side. Yank Rachell’s “Up North Blues” features Giralt on the Cuban tres and Melvin on acoustic. Davis throws in spoken asides, the way John Lee “Sonny Boy” Williamson did on Rachel’s 1941 original, although Davis’ are in Spanish. “Bo Diddley” takes the beat home except that the chorus is ‘Listen to the Clave’.
RJ’s “Me and the Devil” closes, a fine solo performance by Davis recorded at a festival in Cuba the year before. Something a little different then and maybe Davis and Melvin should make more working trips to Cuba. The web site is