Blues scholar Guy Davis is an equally adept player, singer and storyteller in the tradition of his mentor, Taj Mahal. On Skunkmello, named for a legendary chicken thief who was caught and hanged for his crimes around 1900, rootsy troubadour Davis travels from the straight country-blues of “Natural Born Eas’Man” and his Piedmont-flavored original “The Chocolate Man” to the gritty South Side Chicago blues of “It Takes Love to Make a Home” without missing a beat.
He blows some mean harmonica on a cover of the classic “Going Down Slow,” accompanied by former Paul Butterfield Blues Band keyboardist Mark Naftalin on Hammond B3 organ and John Platania of the Van Morrison Band on some piercing electric guitar. And he summons up some commanding Howlin’ Wolf-ish vocals on the haunting “Shooting Star.” Davis, a naturally gritty soulful vocalist, also demonstrates some authentic claw-hammer banjo technique on two old-timey unaccompanied numbers, “Shaky Pudding” and “Blackberry Ramble,” and also on the folkloric title track.
The chilling closer, “Uncle Tom Is Dead (Milk ’n’ Cookies Remix),” is an educated, old-schooler’s indictment of rap music that carries an important, socially charged message for a generation that has lost its sense of history.