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Various Artists

Unsung Herod A Tribute to the Music of Ron Davies – 2013 (Little Chickadee)

Reviewed by Henry L. Carrigan Jr.

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When songwriter Ron Davies died far too young in 2003, he left behind a vast musical legacy. During his life (1946-2003), he wrote more than 600 songs, which were recorded by a diverse group of artists ranging from Long John Baldry, Dobie Gray, John Kay of Steppenwolf, Dave Edmunds, and Anne Murray. Davies wrote It Ain't Easy for David Bowie's "Ziggy Stardust" album - Three Dog Night also recorded it - Helen Reddy recorded the Davies-penned Long Hard Climb.

Davies' younger sister, acclaimed producer and singer Gail Davies ("Caught in the Webb"), gathers a congregation of Davies favorite artists to sing 22 of his favorite songs on this impeccably produced album. You can feel Davies' spirit hovering in the room as artists such as John Anderson (What Good is a Secret), Crystal Gayle (True Lovers and Friends), BR549 (Hey Honey I'm Home), and Guy Clark (Walk and Don't Talk) pay musical tribute to their old friend. Fittingly, Jeff Hanna and Matraca Berg - ably assisted by Mickey Raphael of Willie Nelson's band on harmonica - lift us up on their version of Dark-Eyed Gal, which Davies wrote for the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. Shelby Lynne's growling blues shout on It Ain't Easy takes the song to a place Bowie never could have; Jonell Moser channels Maria Muldaur in the Cajun stomp Saving It Up for You, and Davies joins her brother for the slow Mexican waltz, Steal Across the Border.

Gail Davies, whose soaring voice recalls the Rita Coolidge of that singer's eponymous first album, captures the ache of loss and the desire for more time in her loving and inspiring version of her brother's One More Night with You, which is worth the price of the album.

Every now and then, an album comes along on which every song carries you away from yourself. For a few magic moments, you can feel the joyous spirit of the artists playing and singing the songs, for the lyrics and the notes they're playing are lifting them, too. From the opening note - Davies' One More Night with You - to the final strains of Bonnie Bramlett's loving and exalted gospel-inflected interpretation of Lay My Body Down, this is one of those musical moments.