If what you read on the internets is true, then we’re raising our musically-inclined youth on a culture of immediate gratification without a hint of what it really takes to barely make a dent in today’s music industry. A quick litmus test may be to introduce every sing-for-your-supper contestant on The Voice or American Idol to Ethan Daniel Davidson, a journeyman whose last tour touched over 900 shows and yet you still have no idea who he is.
So the choice to pause and make roots and babies is not surprising, just as is the decision after years of normalcy to return to the studio out of the basic need to create again. You can take the guitar away from an artist, but they’ll eventually end up in a pawn shop eyeballing those cheap Korean models under the pretense that it’ll just be confined to “around the house.”
Davidson may be returning to the long grind of unadorned and under-appreciated touring again with Silvertooth–his first record in seven years–but the songs within it reflect that he hasn’t forgotten the draw of traditional music during that time, picking up on the dustbowl vibe like he just got off the road yesterday. “I’ve measured so many miles between who I am and who I might have been,” he sings on “Your Old Key,” but it sure feels like he’s a work-in-progress while understanding full well that his passion often builds a wide gulf between the relationships that we should be fostering.
Silvertooth puts Davidson’s voice and acoustic guitar unadorned in a very analog way, leaving producer Warren DeFever with a clean palate to color in with atmospheric tones, N’awlins dirge horns and a bed of reverb to lay down in when it gets dark enough. It’s a haunting approach at times, but nothing that listeners haven’t heard before. I was reminded of Grant Lee Buffalo’s Mighty Joe Moon after my initial listen.
And that was enough to warrant a second helping for me.
Throughout the effort, Davidson sweetens the mix with memorable lines like “You always feel the gavel/But you never see the judge” (Ain’t The Man I Used To Be) giving the illusion of his influences at nearly every turn. Unfortunately, the limits of his own voice prevent at least a distinction of putting Davidson into a category all of his own, which means that he’s probably looking at another never-ending schedule where his material will be given away more than it’s actually heard.
The more things change, as they say, but Silvertooth is unquestionably good enough to wish Ethan Daniel Davidson safe travels while he brings his own life lessons to a plywood stage near you.