Karen Davis
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Karen Davis

Band Pop Singer/Songwriter


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This band has not uploaded any videos



"Karen Davis at Balance"

Karen Davis of Boomslang (a boomslange, if you were wondering, is a South African tree snake) has set up in the middle of the room with her acoustic guitar. It's not picked up, and she has no microphone. Luckily for us, her voice is huge enough that it barely matters. Rock and roll in strange places, and under strange conditions: that's going to happen when the city won't allow anybody a performance license.

Davis is imperious and undeterred. That's what I like about her; that and the songs. Playing without bass and drums behind her, it's easier to hear what a fine rhythm player she is -- she's got a great sense of time, and she strums like she's slamming down the gavel. She asks us to visualize the title of Grim Faced Coloured Folks In Fancy Clothes, and then she plays all three songs on the EP. The choice of covers is telling, too: two Neil Young numbers, a sped-up and accusatory "Powderfinger" and an icy read on "Down By The River".

Davis finishes, and immediately proceeds to the massage table.
- Jersey City Journal - Tris McCall

"Rockin' Hard and Shredding Stereotypes"

Rockin' hard and shredding


Can somebody help me find my ears?

A good place to start searching would be Jersey City's Pearl Studios, where the other night for a couple of hours I bore witness to some good ol' fashioned headbangin' rock and roll.

I've been to concerts in my lifetime, but now I see that pales so very much in comparison to being in the mix as guitar, bass and drums rumble through you like a Mack truck whizzing by on the street.

Thankfully, I liked the music that Boomslang - the group takes its name from a character in a Steven King novel - was slinging out. However, I have to be real here and concede that it's a challenge to keep an open mind about hard rock because I love lyrics, which are sometimes difficult for me to decipher in rock tracks.

Boomslang's booming brand of rock emanates from the mind of someone many folks would say is an unlikely source.

Karen Davis, a 30-something African-American woman who resides in Jersey City's burgeoning Downtown arts community, understands that she's an anomaly in the rock world. But after 15 years on the regional rock scene, Davis refuses to allow it to faze her anymore.

"Sometimes when people see me, a black woman playing the kind of music I play, they're confounded," said Davis, who sings, plays guitar and writes lyrics for Boomslang.

"They wonder when the funk is going to start. I ask them, 'What am I supposed to be playing - blues, jazz, rhythm and blues?'

"They say that is generally what everybody else is doing.

But what they don't know is that I'm not everybody else."

Davis' two bandmates, siblings Kevin and John Hummel, who play bass and drums respectively, can vouch for that.

"As a group, we just don't belong," says Kevin Hummel, who looks like the quintessential rocker, his blond hair flowing past his shoulders.

"We're somewhat atypical in today's climate of music," he reasons. "The fact that Karen is black does bring attention to the band, but I don't think it's negative. I think people just say it's different, not 'Hey, what is she doing?' "

Nonetheless, Davis suspects that the color of her skin may have caused some venues to either not book the band or made it significantly tougher to break through.

"I don't want to get mired down in how I'm supposed to be because of the color of my skin," she said.

Davis, a native of suburban Westchester County, New York, credits an older brother for nurturing her affinity for rock.

"He brought the Aerosmith and Pink Floyd albums and the British rock into the house," Davis said. "I was about 11 or 12 years old and becoming aware of boys, and these guys were on the albums with the skin tight pants on. And I thought to myself, 'I might have to learn guitar for that.' "

Through the years, the New York University theater graduate has been a member of several bands. She hooked up with the Hummel brothers - thanks to a friend's introduction - a couple of years ago. She says they bear a striking resemblance to the rock stars she grew up idolizing.

"Apart from being great players, I enjoy looking at them as well," she teased.

On a recent night of practice at Pearl "if you're recordable, we're affordable" Studios, Boomslang raised the roof. They were gearing up for a gig tomorrow night at Uncle Joe's, a nightspot in Downtown Jersey City.

The studio won't ever be mistaken for the Taj Mahal but, hey, like the slogan says, it's affordable. All the members are clad in black, which carries no particular significance, except that the brothers - who look like they weigh no more than 150 pounds apiece - think the color is slimming.

Among the first songs they run through is one aptly called "Hell."

"I don't wanna go to Hell with you . . .," Davis' strong vocals shrill out over the thumping bass and drums. She says most people think she's singing about a bad relationship. They're wrong.

"I wrote that song because of all the pollution and brown haze I see hanging over the Turnpike in the summer," Davis said.

"I had one woman tell me that's a song for all women, and I told her that's unfortunate because it's about pollution. Even when I tell people that's what it's about, they don't get it. Oh well, what are you gonna do?"

Davis said her style is to pen songs about issues, ranging from the death penalty to religion, instead of the tried and true commercial focus on the foibles of love and romance.

"When I turn on the radio there's far too much whining going on and it bothers me," she said. "All the women sound like they're dying."

As the band reached its fifth song during the rehearsal, my head was ringing. Even ear plugs didn't help.

Kevin Hummel, after thrashing himself left to right and bobbing his head countless times, was drenched in sweat. His brother, John, also sweating, sealed his eyes shut through several songs, clanging drumsticks that looked like termites had them for lunch.

Kevin H - Jersey Journal

"Making Her Own Music"

Making her own music

Karen Davis stays true to songs in Jersey City

By Eugene Mulero
Current editor 10/23/2003

KABOOM - Enter the sounds of new rock with Jersey City-based Boomslang.
Karen Davis is a performer and a songwriter with a love for music. For several years she has been leading the way with her band Boomslang and tearing up the rock club circuit in the tri-state area. A Jersey City resident, Davis is a troubadour spreading her poetic lyrics to audiences everywhere with a mellow rock sound with heavy Led Zeppelin influences. Boomslang recently performed at the Ristra Lounge in Hoboken. We recently caught up with Davis.


EM - Where are you from?

KD - I grew up in Mount Vernon, N.Y. in Westchester County. It was a good place to grow up if you were, as I was, a little black girl. It's a suburb, so a lot of the people there were very successful and hard-working. Because of that, I always believed that blackness does not have to be an obstacle to your success.

EM -Who are your influences?

KD - Primarily Pete Townshend of the The Who. I like that Pete doesn't really solo, but carries songs on chord progressions. I'm a rhythm guitarist, so chords mean a lot to me. Even if I do an occasional solo, I like to play two or three strings at a time; it makes things big and powerful. Pete's alienated weirdo lyrics appealed to me because I was a bit of an outcast and very nerdy growing up. I also listened to a lot of Yes and Led Zeppelin. The lyrical quality and the complexity of Yes tunes are incredible. Jon Anderson's voice is light, sweet and irresistible to me. They prove that you can never have too many parts in a song.

EM -Why did you become a musician?

KD - I wanted to hang around cute white boys with long hair. That's the only reason.

EM -Where have you performed?

KD - I've performed all over the place, mostly in New York City, New Jersey and New England. My best gigs to date were opening for Living Color back in the Stone Age, and doing the Black Potato Festival out in Clinton this past July. I've played clubs, colleges, fundraisers, and picnics.

EM -What is your favorite day of the week?

KD - My favorite day of the week is usually Sunday, because I get to spend it lying around with my boyfriend. We're both very talkative.

EM -What are the last three CDs you bought?

KD - The Jeff Beck Group, Neil Young and Crazy Horse and the Best of America.

EM - How would you describe your music?

KD - I hate this question, but like death, it's inevitable. You know "Gallows Pole" on Led Zeppelin 3? It's kind of like that on our current CD, Bloody Tales From the Suburbs. It's acoustic, but I play a lot of double time and use open tuning. There's a lot of angst, darkness and subtle violence in my lyrics.

EM -Are you looking for mainstream exposure?

KD - We'd settle for freakin' exposure at this point, mainstream or otherwise, as long as we get to perform in front of chairs with actual, awake people in them. This year has been heinous for gigs. I love performing, but it seems that people aren't going out like they used to, and the ones that are out did not get us at all. As far as other music business concerns go, I'll be sending our stuff to independent labels and some booking agents. We've also done some internet radio. Exposure - bring it on.

EM -What professional plans do you have for the future?

KD - I need a battery-operated amp so I can play in the street and make some money. I'm also considering hiring myself out as a rhythm guitarist.

EM -What is the best part about your job?

KD - Writing a new song that I really love and can't wait to play in front of people.

For more information on Boomslang visit www.bommslangband.com. q

©The Hudson Reporter 2005

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- Hudson Current


Burn - 4 song EP
Bloody Tales From the Suburbs - 6 song EP
Grim Faced Folks in Fancy Clothes - 3 song demo with band.



Karen's first influence was singer/songwriter Joan Armatrading. She loved Joan's direct yet emotive lyrics and soulful vocals. Guitarwise, Karen is a devotee of the great Peter Townshend: Rhythm all the way, and double-time when called for. Vocally, Karen draws inspiration from Grace Slick, Aretha Franklin, Billie Holliday, and has been compared often to Tracy Chapman. Her rangy voice can go from the basement to the attic with ease.
Constant desire to perform led her to establish a regular gig at The Sidewalk Café, and a subsequent crowning as Queen of Anti-Folk. Through this, she met singer/song-
writer Lisa St. Ann. Lisa fell in love with Karen’s driving, innovative, Townshendesque, rhythm guitar style, and drafted Karen into her touring band. Lisa’s business savvy encouraged Karen to send out more materials, netting Karen regular gigs in the New Jersey folk scene. These venues included Chapter One Books (Highland Park), Greens Bean Café (Sparta, Hackettestown), The Java Joint (Tom’s River) and Starbucks (Jersey City). The culmination of this was a tour of New England colleges.
Karen continues to be a force in the Jersey City underground music scene. The Art House featured her for months in the opening sequence of their public access show. Later, she and her band Boomslang were musical guests on the Art House show. Boomslang were featured in a front-page Jersey Journal article, and received several good reviews of their CD, Bloody Tales From the Suburbs.
Karen did an interview and live performance on the Brooklyn Cable Access show ArtistsInsight; and was the musical guest ‘Cool In Your Code’, performing at the Magickal Wonders Occult Emporium. Downtown Jersey City special events would not be complete without her: Films at Grace (Grace Church, Jersey City) hosted her as musical guest; she played for the last 3 years in the Jersey City artists studio tour, performing at two venues last year; she has performed at the Cathedral Arts Festival for 3 years and had her work highlighted in their Gallery Talks segment.
Her regular Jersey City gigs included residencies at Subia’s Café, Legal Grounds and at the Waterbug Hotel. Karen has also been the musical guest on FJS On-line radio, as well as other online radio programs. Karen has performed at Phialdelphia’s 5th St. Coffeehouse twice, and plans to return there in the summer. Independent film-maker Andrew Ventimiglia has featured her in his new film, Dreams.
Karen is now working on putting together overseas dates, as well as more New England, Philadelphia, and New York City gigs. She’s also working on a new CD, and looking for new band mates. For more information, check out her website www.myspace.com/boomslang