Best known for his work with Jack White and Steppin’ In It, bassist and Michigan native Dominic John Davis boasts an eclectic array of musical influences. He shares those today with Local Spins.
EDITOR’S NOTE: All musicians trace their inspiration to key recordings that captivated them and influenced their own music. Writer Ross Boissoneau today showcases the albums that changed the world for Detroit native and Nashville-based Dominic John Davis. Scroll down for a Spotify playlist of his picks, plus a couple of tracks that he’s produced.
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Dominic John Davis is best known these days for his work with Jack White as bassist and music director, but his work crosses all genres: blues, rock, Americana, even hip hop. He hails originally from Detroit, where he attended Cass Technical High before earning a BFA in Fine Arts at Michigan State University.
He’s worked with a host of musicians across all genres, starting with the rootsy Steppin’ In It, before performing with folk and Americana artists: Seth Bernard, May Erlewine, Jeff Daniels, Rachael Davis and Greg Brown. On stage, he’s backed artists such as Don Henley, John Hiatt, Patty Griffin, Q Tip, Robert Plant and Pearl Jam, while recording with everyone from Wanda Jackson and Tom Jones, Brian Setzer and Christina Aguilera to Adele, Beyonce and Beck. He has produced records with Willie Nelson, Gregory Stovetop, Jen Sygit and Greensky Bluegrass.
1. Big Sean, “Detroit 2” (2020) – I’ve always been a fan of hip hop and feel like that comes with a responsibility to stay on top of new releases. With so few records coming out during lockdown, I stumbled on this one when it was released and it really stuck with me. It became my daily listener while running so I’m very familiar with it, and it reminds me of running in many different parts of the country. Big Sean tackles some heavy topics here: Ego, mental health, personal relationships coming apart – all subjects that seemed extremely topical for 2020. He doesn’t stop there and reveals how he deals with some of them himself, which takes some honesty. Plus he employs the use of a marching band on “The Baddest,” which I particularly loved.
Listen: “Why Would I Stop?”
2. Phoebe Bridgers, “Punisher” (2020) – I was producing a record with a string band during lockdown and a few band members kept referencing this record in the process, pointing out recording treatments, effects, layered vocals, song structure. Admittedly, I wasn’t really familiar and at the time it seemed to come out of left field, but I felt compelled to listen to it. I couldn’t put it down and realized that it’s basically a folk record. Great songs, brilliant production and beyond all of that a simple look at one’s life and everything around it.
Listen: “Garden Song”
3. Ray Lamontagne, “Monovision” (2020) – I’m not sure if the release of this record was rushed because of the pandemic but it seemed to come out of nowhere and was just what I needed at the time. I love albums that make you want to learn every song immediately and this was certainly one of them. Ray produced “Monovision” himself and did a damned fine job. It’s so simple and each song has exactly what it needs. He also really let his vocals speak for themselves and didn’t cloud them with anything. Two tracks that stand out are “Born To Love You” and “Strong Enough.”
Listen: “Roll Me Mama, Roll Me”
Currently Loving: The Band, “Stage Fright” (1970) – The pandemic had me home more than I’d ever been, which was really great in some ways. Somehow this record became my 6-year-old’s bath time listen. I’m not exactly sure how that came about, but she started asking for it every time she got in the tub. It’s really great rediscovering music through the ears of your children. I’ve always been a gigantic fan of the band, but as a record this one fell through the cracks for me. It’s since had a new life and has gotten to the point where she points out who’s singing what and little vocal discrepancies in each chorus. Music is magic in that way. It can help heal the moment you’re living through or transport you to another time and place.
Listen: “The Shape I’m In”
MUSIC THAT CHANGED THE WORLD: Dominic John Davis’ Playlist on Spotify
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