New Music Tuesday: The Ultimate Joshua Davis Link-a-thon, Plus His Earthwork Music Labelmates
It’s been official for a couple of weeks now: America loves Traverse City singer-songwriter Joshua Davis.
After what seems like countless elimination rounds over the past few months, the 37-year-old soul-roots-folk-rock singer is one of the four finalists. Tonight at 8pm, the winner of “The Voice” will be announced.
Could it be Joshua? Of course it could. Until noon today, you can cast votes by Tweeting, phone calling and purchasing the singles on iTunes that he played last night (“The Workingman’s Hym” and “Hallelujah”):
VOTE: You can vote up to 10 times by calling (855) 864-2303 : http://nbc.com/the-voice/vote : He gets major points for iTunes downloads:
“The Workingman’s Hymn” Voice Performance, “Hallelujah” Voice Performance
How did Davis make the cut week after week? Viewers of the show fell in love with his warm, soulful vocals; his ease on stage; his honest, humble smile; and (let’s be honest, ladies raise your hands), his weapons-grade baby blues.
Monday – just before last night’s final performances unfolded live on national TV – Davis spoke with a Michigan reporter about his peers – the pool of folk and roots talent in the state that he had come to represent on the national stage:
“There is such an incredible amount of talent of musicians in our state,” he said. “It’s amazing, and I wish they could all feel what I’m feeling, this huge amount of love.”
Well, we’re here to help…
Below are clips from the Michigan artists he’s talking about, many of whom are labelmates on the Earthwork Music Collective, an independent record label founded in Lake City, Michigan by modern folk singer-songwriters Seth Bernard and May Erlewine.
These musicians are every bit as good as Josh (depending on your tastes), and they remain as talented as always, even though they didn’t appear on “The Voice” and receive the attention that a national stage provides:
May Erlewine actually had a song of hers sung on “The Voice.” And surprisingly, not by Joshua Davis. Turns out the favorite to win “The Voice,” Sawyer Fredericks, had discovered the Michigan singer’s music years ago and convinced the network to allow him to perform her original ballad “Shine On” even though it was completely unknown (most songs performed on the show by the contestants are familiar covers of standards or newish hits). Rolling Stone wrote about the ripple the song choice made and the article reports that Google searches for the song went through the roof.
Here’s May Erlewine herself performing a different original of hers, “Sweet By and By,” recorded while she was visibly pregnant, singing about friends and loved ones who have passed on. If you’re not the stoic type, you might need to have a box of tissues handy. Oh, and that’s Joshua Davis playing piano.
Anyone who is a fan of May’s knows that she’s married to and performs with modern folk troubadour Seth Bernard. Together, Seth and May are the first family of folk in the state of Michigan. They’ve played every festival in Michigan, toured nationally and enjoy immense popularity in northern Michigan and across the state. He’s put out an incredible string of fantastic albums. Here’s Seth performing together with May (and backed up by Joshua Davis and Steppin’ In It bassist Dominic Suchyta) on WKAR-East Lansing’s live show, “Backstage Pass”:
Breathe Owl Breathe
This band is genius. There’s no one video I could post for you that is truly representative of what exactly is the magic that this East Jordan, Michigan-based band creates. But here they are in the woods performing a song about a saber tooth tiger who arrives from the Ice Age to come to school in modern times. (The last time I saw Breathe Owl Breathe lead singer Micah Middaugh, he was banging around the outdoor basketball court at Seth Bernard’s family farm during the Harvest Gathering, Earthwork’s annual outdoor music festival every fall in Lake City.)
Here’s another Breathe Owl Breathe video, to give you a second coordinate.
Chris Dorman is from Lansing and lives now with his young family on a farm in Vermont where he’s known as “Mr. Chris,” the children’s musician. Dorman has a wonderful, unique voice and can write songs “by the bundle” that are soundtrack-ready for indie films and TV shows everywhere. I don’t care if these songs are on his children’s records or if they’re on his folk-pop records, they are just stirring, tuneful gems that would make audiences in front of TVs everywhere feel all the feelings. If I was a music publishing agent, I’d be on Chris Dorman’s farmhouse doorstep this afternoon.
He’s also an Earthwork Music artist and another example of the talent this state (sorry Vermont!) has to offer (he’s ours). This video co-stars Traverse City’s Boardman Lake train trestle and the Oryana food co-op:
Last but not least, I would be remiss to omit The Accidentals, who signed a deal to put out a string of albums to be produced by Detroit native and guitar-pop legend Marshall Crenshaw in New York City. I saw these two girls (probably 16 years old?) a few years ago playing for fun in front of Horizon Books in downtown Traverse City, and they were drawing a crowd. They’re still doing that, only now the crowds are at South by Southwest.
Please take the time at your leisure to discover these friends of Josh’s.
Since you’re probably reading this because you’re rooting for Joshua, here are links to his three solo recordings on Earthwork:
Fool Rooster (2005) – check out “Chief Joseph” and “Triple A”
Magnolia Belles (2011) – check out “Moonshine Annie” and the original version of his original song “The Workingman’s Hymn,” which he performed live last night and re-recorded for the “The Voice” as an iTunes single available now.
A Miracle of Birds (2013) – (no streaming on this one… d-oh! But buy, buy away…)
Another amazing find for Joshua Davis fans: the homepage for his band, Steppin’ In It, featuring songs that automatically stream and feature him backed by some of Michigan’s best players – who also happen to have been writing and touring with Davis for over a decade or more.
Joshua Davis is a talented musician and, luckily for us, he has a lot of friends who are all together making something special here. If you like Joshua Davis and seek a pleasant alt-folk peninsula, look about you.