Karl W. Davis
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Karl W. Davis

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Karl W. Davis recently traveled to Jacksonville’s sister city, Nantes, France and collaborated with some of the top musicians in Europe to record his new album, Karl W. Davis and the Milkmen. With a foundation in funk, Davis, his writing partner and guitarist, Jim Barcaro, and their European friends manage to blend in gospel, folk, r&b and even rock ‘n’ roll with refreshing finesse. And Davis’ voice has that mix of clarity and soul –Kind of a Ben Harper meets John Popper sound- that fits right in.
I love hybrids. I know that the “music business” declares that artists should be genre specific, but I just don’t buy it. Without artists like Davis –artists willing to push the genre envelope- we wouldn’t even have genres. And what is art if it doesn’t contain some individual creativity?
Davis, who dedicated his new album to the late Ray Charles, grew up in Kingsland, GA, where he was strongly influenced by gospel music. “When I was 12 or 13, a friend from school brought me to his church…and that was the first gospel music I’d ever heard,” says Davis. “Everybody was so into it…and right then I said, ‘that’ll do’…a spiritual experience, that’s what it should be.” And after sharing the stage with artists such as Littlefeat, Widespread Panic, Moe, Keller Williams, Gatemouth Brown, and The Fabulous Thunderbirds (the list goes on), Davis has covered his bases in the genre department.
According to Davis, the new album, which is not out in the states yet but can be purchased through his website, www.karlwdavis.com or directly from him at karlwdavis@hotmail.com, is already out in Europe, and the word is spreading quickly. “Since we made the disc [in Europe], and it just happened to take off in Europe first, we want it to build momentum and then tour the states,” says Davis. “We have a three or four month tour coming in spring.”
Davis and Barcaro currently perform on Thursdays at the Green Turtle and on Wednesdays at the Hammerhead, both in Fernandina Beach. And in February, Emmanuel “Manu” Frangeul, who plays harmonica on the new disc, will be arriving from France to join the duo locally before embarking on their tour of Europe. Davis says they are already working on recordings for the next album. I’m looking forward to it.

- Folio Weekly


Discography

CD - Karl W. Davis and the Milkmen 2006
CD - The Bad Mules, "Who Drank My Beer" 2007

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Bio

Karl was born in 1965 in Folkston Georgia, a small town near the southeast corner of the Okeefenokee swamp. As a young boy, Karl’s mamma introduced him to the sounds of Motown and she encouraged his creativity and open-mindedness.

After a childhood primed with the sounds of Motown, and the experience of singing southern-black gospel in church, Karl fronted his first professional band in 1989. From the beginning, the power and soul emanating from this young man was abundantly clear. This band was most importantly the start of the fruitful creative songwriting collaboration with guitarist/songwriter/vocalist Jim Barcaro, which continues to this day. In these early years, Karl shared bandstands with many heavy hitters passing through or from the Jacksonville, Florida area, including Little Feat, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Charlie Daniels, Edgar Winter, Savoy Brown and Molly Hatchet.

With five years of regional success behind him, the road called and Karl joined The Headstone Circus (THC) on a tour of the United States. This experience allowed him to use improvisation as the foundation for writing original songs, which supported his ideal of performance art. This technique puts the emphasis on the interplay between musicians, and during the years with THC a strong bond formed between Karl and pianist/songwriter/vocalist Nathan Brown. Hundreds of shows and thousands of miles of traveling together opened up a door for an intuitive intertwining of expression and an honest effort to go beyond genre constraints. Heavy inspiration also came in the form of touring bands which Karl performed with and learned from such as The Neville Brothers, The Greg Allman Band, Colonel Bruce Hampton and the Aquarium Rescue Unit, Widespread panic, The Jerry Garcia Band, Merle Saunders and Moe.

In 1998 when Karl married his love Tina, it was a time to figure out what the next step should be for him musically. As usual this step revealed itself in the form of musical inspiration. The blues was the link in the chain that was missing, with this link the complete circle was made back to his gospel roots. With the blues and boogie band Sugar Daddy, Karl won the first round of the International Blues competition in Florida to represent the state in Memphis. After opening for Duke Robillard and The Fabulous Thunderbirds the tour continued to Tennessee to play the legendary New Daisy Theatre where Karl’s voice rang the rafters and lit the crowd on fire.

Back in Jacksonville, Florida, in 2000 Karl and his blues band were asked to audition for and awarded a spot in the French festival Rendez-vous de l’Erdre, Nantes. At this concert, held on a small island in the center of Nantes, Karl sang with and formed powerful friendships with many fine blues and soul musicians. Now, after traversing oceans, touring together, living together, and exploring the link between blues, gospel and improvisational soul, songs are being written, sounds are being developed, the subtle blending of where everyone is coming from is finding it’s way into the mix and a family has emerged. In Nantes, the circle of love begins with Malted Milk with front-man Arnaud Fradin, a band who is known throughout Europe and the U.S. Musicians Arnaud Fradin and Manu Frangeuel offered their creativity and energy to bring all of the elements of their shared experience together for a common cause, to bring about a very personal experience to the audience with each performance. As a direct result, the CD entitled Karl W. Davis and the Milkmen “Tear it up” was recorded in 2005. In addition, Karl wrote and sang tracks on The Bad Mules (Nantes, FR) CD “Who Drank My Beer” in 2007. This international collaboration continues.

Karl is now an independent artist, which gives him the freedom to perform, tour, write and record with many musicians around the world. This freedom also gives him the opportunity to teach master vocal classes with Tounon d’Agenais 2006 and 2008, Human Music 2008 and master gospel classes to urban youth with Cite Monde 2006, 2007 and 2008. Teaching master vocal/gospel/performance class has become a new love for Karl, one of which he intends to continue to peruse.

"I love to sing, and if you have seen me sing, you would surely agree that it is from a place of joy. I hope to inspire every time I perform, I hope to be inspired every time I perform. I hope to be a guide to the place where tone, melody, lyric, rhythm and creativity combine, even if it’s just for one instant. Just long enough for everyone in the room to feel the same tear pushing from behind their eyes, the same goose bumps popping on their arms, the same tingle chasing electricity from the top of their heads to the tips of their toes at the same time I do. This magic is not hindered by language. I have been fortunate enough to sing in many places around the world and sometimes where no one speaks English. I am met with hugs when I come off stage and then a look in the eye that says we just connected, tha