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Review by Wildy Haskell
Rating: 5 Stars (Out of 5)
Geoff Davin was bitten by the music bug early on, writing songs from the tender age of five. A professional actor from the age of fourteen, Davin moved to New York after high school and attended the C.A.P. 21 Studio at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. Davin appeared in a number of shows both in New York and across the country, but a workshop production of Pearl Heart broke the dam for Davin’s love of country music. Moving to Nashville, Davin threw himself into the music the same way he’d earlier immersed himself in the stage. Two years later, Davin has the fruit of his labors ready for the world. His debut album, Breakline, eschews the cookie-cutter pop/country mould and goes for a classic-yet-fresh blend of country, southern rock and R&B.
Davin opens with some filthy-good slide guitar work; the introduction to the blend of soul, rock and honky-tonk that is "Sounds Of A Summer Night". This might just be the ultimate back-country party song. "Sounds Of A Summer Night" is so infectious it's being tracked by the CDC, but may be quite difficult to slot into a format for commercial radio. This one has hit written all over it; release it on the cusp of summer and you may have a single that stays in heavy rotation until Labor Day. "Bow Chicka-Wow-Wow" is incredibly catchy rock n roll that's full of innuendo and fun. The song avoids cliché while playing off a stereotype. You know what it's about from the title alone, but Davin manages to surprise you with how bloody well written it is nonetheless.
"Shine!" tells the story of two star-crossed souls who fall in love. He's deeply devoted, but she has dreams that will take her far beyond his reach. "Shine!" explores the mixture of love, sorrow and regret over the wistful desire to be in one place but the inevitable need to be in another. "Cora Lee Five" is all about a woman who chews men up and spits them out without conscience or thought. Davin continues to surprise with an ability to churn out catchy country/soul/rock hybrids with a frequency that's nearly frightening. "Cross My Mind" is pure 1970's soul with a dose of Black Crowes thrown in for good measure. Engaging and catchy in spite of the mid-tempo presentation, "Cross My Mind" has some serious chart potential in its exploration of the echoes of love that reverberate long after reason is gone.
"Somebody Like Me" is an 'opposites attract' story-song done in outlaw country style. He's a rocker-boy and she's Harvard educated. Together they explore a path full of surprising connections and unlikely agreements from two theoretical ends of the social world. This one is hopeful with attitude, and will get stuck in your skull. "Regret" is deep and soulful in a powerful 1970's soul arrangement. Davin's voice is generally a pleasure, but on this song he raises it to the level of amazing, and his backup vocalist matches him note for note. "Breakline" is about as catchy as a song can legally be; another potential hit for Davin. The song tells the story of a road man and the inspiration that keeps him driving when all else fails. Breakline closes with "Long Way", a quietly celebratory song on 'making it', whatever that may mean to you. The song is very well written and uplifting, and is the sort of song that causes the house to be dappled with thousands of specks of light in concert.
Geoff Davin is the real deal, blending country, soul, rock and R&B into music so catchy and uncontrived you can't help but sing, dance or move along. If Davin doesn't make it big it will be ultimate indictment of the music industry. While Davin doesn't slot easily into one commercial radio format, the songs on Breakline are of such quality and a mix of styles that Davin could rule several charts at once. Breakline is a must-have album, but for what it is and for what Davin just might become.
Review by Dan MacIntosh
Rating: 3 Stars (out of 5)
The first problem you may encounter when approaching Geoff Davin’s music is reconciling the sound of his voice, with the way he looks. Davin’s a relatively young man, with a fresh young face. Yet his music makes him sound like a wise old soul, instead. And while he’s chosen Nashville, TN as his home, he doesn’t play and sing like many other country singers there. Perhaps James Otto (the soulful, Ronnie Milsap-inspired soul-country star) is the closest example for what Davin does. But he’s not nearly close enough to be a good match.
A song like “Cora Lee Five”, with its rumbling groove and soulful horn section, sounds like it could be a Black Crowes song. Its lyric speaks of a saucy woman. She may not be a Sunday morning church girl, but she’s certainly difficult to resist.
On “Cross My Mind”, Davin sings over a musical bed that includes an organ part that might not sound all that out of place in church. Davin sings about regretting ever getting mixed up with a certain girl. The track is one of those slow burners, which builds up to a strong flame – especially due to some spicy electric guitar playing. In a related song, the lyrics to “Regret” speak of trying to live life without regret. The song has some fine female backing vocals. It also features a spooky melody. The bass line is mighty cool.
Davin quiets things down considerably with “Long Way”. This track starts off with gently acoustic guitar and Davin’s gravelly vocal. The recording is particularly heightened by a choir-like backing vocal section. However, even though the recording doesn’t rock and roll as much as the selections that precede it, “Long Way” is still nevertheless quite blues-y.
The best lyrics on this disc can be found on “Shine!”. It’s a sad song about a woman’s broken romantic relationship. Davin nicely contrasts the way a diamond ring shines, with the way this woman dreams of one day shining on a concert stage. The story is told from the woman’s perspective. Details are few, but the listener can make his or her own connections. Did she put her career above this relationship? Did he try and hold her back? Davin never gives us those exact details. And it’s the mystery in the way he tells the story that makes use hang onto his every word.
One tune, “Somebody Like Me”, is one of the closest things Davin has to country music because of its fiddle music. However, “Sound of A Summer Night” is full-on country music. Even so the banjo and fiddle are mixed in with soulful vocals and organ. It’s as though Davin can’t ever separate his love of the blues from the country recordings he makes. “Sound Of A Summer Night” is a fun song, in that it paints the scene where music is flowing, people are dancing and folks are (more than likely) also drinking. It’s the sort of song that gets played on Saturday nights in honky tonks.
With “White Beat”, Davin finds himself in a Black church where he shows his sincere appreciation for the music they play there. This is not stuffy White church music, no. The music is pounding, the singers are wailing and everyone is having a good time. Come to think of it, this scene is not all that different from the scene set in “Sound Of A Summer Night”. Only the color of the people represented is different, and the music is distinctly different.
One has to wonder what the Nashville scene makes of Geoff Davin. There’s an audience for the musical hybrid he concocts. But that audience is certainly not the one that listens to country music. He may find more fans within the rock community. But whether he finds his audience or not, Breakline is a powerful collection of inspired music.