An exceptional writer, producer, recording artist and performer of Blues, R&B and Southern Soul Music for many years, Davis has bounced from label to label releasing solid Johnnie Taylor-esque soul but has yet to get the commercial breakthrough he deserves. At 2005's Jackson Music Awards he received "The International Songwriter of the Year Award as he has written many other hit songs for other recording artists. As of this year he has released his 6th album of original material for his fifth label, Studio Showtime.
"You Are My Honey Poo" (Kon-Kord 1995)
**1/2 Twin Brothers Estus & Lester Patterson suit Davis up with some fair material like the lovely "Heaven Has Sent Me Your Love" and the upbeat "I'm In Love With The Girl Next Door" but, unfortunately, the album's production and arrangement ae a letdown. The cheesy synth "strings" ruin the otherwise fine "Hard To Live Without You" and the mix on the tepid "Baby" buries Rue's vocals with the rhythm section. Still, the cute "Honey Poo" and the blues "You Gonna Make A Good Man Do Wrong" hold up rather well. Another issue is the garish album cover! Bizarre. Things greatly improved next time out.
"Somebody Wants You" (Avanti 1997)
**** Very good soul/blues release reveals Rue's remarkable ability to sound like many singers all in one. Besides the undeniable Johnnie Taylor inflections ("True") he's also a dead ringer for Z.Z. Hill on the stunning deep soul "Can I Hold On To Your Hand". Davis gives an assured, raspy vocal like it was 1964 in Muscle Shoals. From there he becomes Bobby "Blue" Bland on the slow blues "Do You Want To See Me" and even can sound like Joe Cocker as on "Won't You Try Me". What a talent! Sometimes this gift has overshadowed his own persona as it's hard to know for sure who Rue Davis is. Nevertheless, this 14-song collection should have made Davis a household name. The production may sound dated at times but Davis' talent shines through.
"Sings With Friends" (Avanti 1998)
1. Movie Star
*** It was inevitable. Rue's remarkable ability to emulate other great singers takes a logical step with this release. The "With Friends" is of course Rue himself. The liner notes say "When he was a boy his mother would ask him to sing a Johnnie Taylor or Sam Cooke or even a ZZ Hill song. He would stand there and sing from his heart". Another talent Rue has is songwriting as he either wrote or co-wrote all 15 tracks here. On the Hi Records-inspired "One Chance" he captures Al Green. On the country soul "You Don't Love Me" he sound like Ray Charles. "Johnnie Taylor" sings with Rue on "Tip", which sounds similar to Taylor's Malaco output. Z.Z. Hill comes out on the fine "Change Your Ways" and "Tyrone Davis" slides on in for "I Can't Help Myself". On some of the tracks it's harder to tell what "friend" he's singing with. Perhaps Bobby Bland on the retro "That's Why I Love You So", Bill Withers or James Carr on "Forgive Me Darling". Maybe Marvin Gaye on "I'm Going On With You". Had these been straight imitations the concept would have worn the album thin, but it's Rue Davis singing with his own voice and he just so happens to have immense range.
"Candy Sweet" (Off The Hook 2001)
*** Yet another record label for this terrific singer and this time he seems to be settling into a definitive Rue Davis sound- smooth contemporary R & B and midtempo Retro-Soul. His influences are unmistakable. Yes, he sounds like Johnnie Taylor on the slow rolling hit "Candy Sweet" and the bass-heavy groover "Gotta Give Him Love", Al Green on the Memphis Soul "You Oughta Stand Up" and Bobby 'Blue" Bland on the slow blues "You Set Me Up" but the album feels like a whole, rather than a series of singles like "Sings With Friends". That "down home blues" of Z.Z. Hill shows up on the funny "You Need To Get A Kit Kat" and the sweet, romantic crooning "Precious" shows his versatility once again.
"Heaven Has Sent Me Your Love" (Kon-Kord 2003)
Reissue of the "Honey Poo" Album
1. Honey Poo
"Dapp Daddy" (Knock On Wood 2003)
1. Take Me Back to
**1/2 The vocal chameleon is back! This this new set features 14 tracks written by W. Woodard, including the great tribute to Johnnie Taylor called "Johnnie, You Were Our Friend". Only JT's son Floyd sounds more like JT than Rue Davis. It's a tasteful hallmark to a departed friend. Another standout is the swinging valentine to Mississippi's famed Farish Street, home of the Alamo Theater, called "Take Me Back To Farish St." Davis gives a warm, understated vocal that captures the nostalgic mood. "This Young Thang Ain't For Sale" is a funky blueser with a throaty vocal and "Set You Free" is a head-bobbing ZZ Hill-kissed jam. Slick, R &B dancers and smooth slow jams round out the majority of the disc. Davis seems to have set aside his uncanny ability to impersonate other great singers (Johnnie Taylor, ZZ Hill, Bobby Bland, Al Green) and gives us the real Rue Davis.
"For Real" (Studio Showtime 2005)
1. Between the Sheets
***1/2 What if I told I just discovered a singer that's nearly as good as Johnnie Taylor and Z.Z. Hill all wrapped in one? If you were a record company A & R man you'd be quite intrigued. As a music fan it would be a hallelujah time! Well I didn't discover such a singer, he's been around for years and his name is Rue Davis. After making some noise with his 1995 single "You Are My Honey Poo" Rue has been like Roy Hobbs in "The Natural", pacing the dugout in the Southern Soul world waiting for the chance to knock one out the park. In the meantime he's been steadily churning out great songs for others and releasing terrific albums that only the hip soul geeks know about. Studio Showtime is the sixth label home for Davis in 10 years and it's one of his finest. After years of proving his uncanny ability to sound like other great singers (Hill, Taylor, Al Green, Tyrone Davis, Ray Charles) he's settled into a consistent Urban Contemporary template on his last three discs. Like "Candy Sweet" and "Dapp Daddy", the new "For Real" is a sultry, soul/blues stew. From the opening chords of "Between The Sheets" its obvious Rue has an affinity for "Sexual Healing"-era Marvin Gaye. Longtime arranger Harrison Calloway, Jr. and producers Davis and Vernon Webster envelope Rue's yearning vocal in a cozy creeping flow. The song is even better as a guitar and vocal remix near the end of the disc. The swinging soul of Sam Cooke meets Motown David Ruffin on Rue's "You're So Sweet". (Try and tell me Rue's phrasing on the first verses don't remind you of Ruffin!) Fans of Johnnie Taylor's creamy soul will adore "Treat Her Like A Queen" and the hip shakin' groove of "Baby Cakes". But the tippity-top jam here is the gorgeous "Tell Me What U Want", which shows Rue also digs "Let's Get It On"-era Marvin! (Interestingly he has a line here that says "I got some sexual healing). If you claim to love slow n' mellow soul music Rue's got what you want. Hey Jive why not give Rue a deal?
Little Buck (features Rue Davis) "I'mma Stir It Up" (Studio Showtime 2005)
1. Disco 2005
Little Buck (features Rue Davis) "I'mma Blues Man" (Studio Showtime 2006)
1. Singing the Blues with My
Friend (with Rue Davis)
"Return Of The Legend" (Boom Town 2008)
1. Down Home Blues
boastful title is true, albeit in a limited sense. Davis has never
scraped the national charts nor sold enough records to catch the
attention of the I.R.S. but in the so-called chitlin' circuit he is
indeed legendary. Perhaps he's mostly known for his uncanny ability
to sing like Johnnie Taylor, ZZ Hill, Al Green and other legends. A
reality highlighted on his out of print Avanti CD "Sings With
Friends" . Of course he's also an in demand songwriter with over a
hundred published songs recorded by himself or his peers. "Return Of
A Legend" has popped up on Rue's sixth record label in a dozen
years. This time Davis gives the producer chores to someone else,
one Carl Marshall.
"Shake It Loose" (Kon-Kord 2014)
1. Shake It Loose
Bobby Powell with Rue Davis, Carl Marshall "Juke Joint Blues" (1 Stop Graphics 2014)
1 Special (with Rue Davis)
"Big Hip Woman" (1 Stop Graphics 2016)
1 The Love of My Life
"Love Songs" (self-released 2016)
digital only album made obsolete by "Collectors Edition" below
1. My Honey Poo
"Collector's Edition" (1 Stop Graphics 2017)
My Honey Poo
****1/2 As it says on the album cover Rue Davis is a "man of many voices", which makes reference to his uncanny ability to imitate famous Soul Blues voices like Little Milton, Johnnie Taylor, ZZ Hill, Bobby 'Blue' Bland, Tyrone Davis, Ray Charles, Al green and the list goes on. For a prime example of this vocal chameleon's talent check out the the 1998 Avanti Records LP "Sings With Friends", which had Davis singing like (not really "with") his friends from track to track. An exceptional writer, producer, recording artist and performer of Blues, R&B and Southern Soul Music for many years, Davis has bounced from label to label. Despite being or perhaps because of being a cherished artist of the Southern Soul Blues universe Davis has appeared on no less than eight different record labels from 1995 until now and has yet to record with the big five (Malaco/Waldoxy, Mardi Gras, Ecko, CDS Records). There's at least nine full Rue Davis albums for this "best of" to choose from not counting his collaborative albums with Little Buck and Bobby Powell. So how did "Collectors Edition" do in cherry picking tracks for this 13 song collection? Pretty darn good in my estimation.
Davis' first release was the 1995 album "You Are My Honey Poo" (later re-issued as "Heaven Has Sent Me Your Love" in 2003 via Kon-Kord Records) and this new release extracts "Honey Poo" (his very first chitlin circuit hit) and the equally good "I'm In Love With The Girl Next Door". Because "Edition" is limited it doesn't include other essential gems like "Heaven Sent Me Your Love" and "Love is So Good When You're Stealing It". His 1997 sophomore album, "Somebody Wants You", is perhaps his very best studio album and is represented by the gorgeous "Our Love Divine" and the title track. Proper picks for sure but including "Shoopedoo" would've been perfect. The aforementioned "Sings With Friends" has two tracks lifted ("Can't Help Myself" in Tyrone Davis mode and "Thanks For Saving Your Love"). So far these selections are nearly spot on. From 2001's "Candy Sweet" comes the title cut and "I'll Be Your Shoulder" but the "Honey Poo" sequel "Tippitaboo" is more essential than "Shoulder". The next album, "Dapp Daddy" gets ignored and it really is his weakest album anyway.
The hit single, "Tell Me What You Want", comes from the terrific 2005 album "For Real", which is an album you should own in whole. The Marvin Gaye-inspired "Between The Sheets" should have been here too. His tracks on the two Little Buck albums ("I'mma Stir It Up" & "I'mma Blues Man") are skipped (one track, "Big Hip Woman", appeared on a later Rue Davis LP) while the collection snags "I Promise", and "I'm Giving Up The Streets" from 2008's "Return Of The Legend" and the title cut to "Big Hip Woman" (2016). 2014's "Shake It Loose" has no tracks and neither does Bobby Powell's "Juke Joint Blues". That leaves one track unaccounted for, "Your Man". I wasn't able to source this excellent saxophone blessed slow beater (other than a digital-only self released "Love Songs" album from 2006, which is identical to "Collectors Edition" other than missing the song from "Big Hip Woman" ) so it may be be previously unreleased.
If you no or very little Rue Davis in your collection buy this NOW, but be warned you're going to want more. This is the ideal sampler to the Rue Davis canon. That said, longtime fans like myself, know that one album cannot contain the "best of Rue Davis". (footnote: the track listing running order doesn't match what it says on the artwork)