Sat. Nov. 5 / Tues. Nov. 7
10 p.m. / 9:30 p.m.
Henry’s — DT / Blind Tiger Pub
54 N. Market St. / 38 Broad St.
723-4363 / 577-0088
Among the newest breed of bluesy musicians sit the likes of Shannon Curfman, Jonny Lang, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, and local Davis Coen, 29. Skilled with a guitar, Coen has been hard at work on his craft since before his voice cracked. The Charleston-based singer, songwriter, and slide guitarist was a standout act at this year’s Lowcountry Blues Bash and Piccolo Spoleto’s “Early Bird Blues” series. Coen mostly performs as a solo acoustic guitar, vocal, and harmonica act, with occasional accompaniment. He recently returned from a stint in Italy, and before that, an incredibly busy summer.
CP: You recently returned from a week-long festival in Italy. What the heck was it, how did you get involved, and how did it go?
Davis Coen: It was about two weeks, but it was called a Busker’s Festival, something that I’d really never heard of until I went over there. It’s a festival of street musicians, which isn’t nearly as popular here as it is over there. It was in one particular city and they hired 20 invited musicians from around the world, which I was one of, and there were about 400 peripheral street musicians. You just set up on different street corners and play most of the day … you put out your hat for tips. It takes place in this medieval city [Ferrara]. To be perfectly honest, it rained most of the time, so it wasn’t the biggest financial success. The concept was pretty cool.
CP: Among other things, I see that your music is featured on the DVD set of the Martin Scorsese-produced PBS series The Blues. How did that come about?
DC: There’s a guy I grew up with and he works for Sony — they do a lot of special products distributions. It’s a seven-DVD series and each one is a different theme of the blues. They had seven different directors and they gave each one a genre — Clint Eastwood did the piano blues, Jim Jarmusch did the Memphis blues and so on. They were looking for a guy who could play a bunch of different styles of blues; they thought of me and they called me up to do it. When you’re negotiating through the chapters, the credits, and the special features, it’s my guitar.
CP: With all of this gallivanting around the world and such, how do you stay connected to Charleston? And, in that vein, why do you choose to keep it as your home base?
DC: I think maybe sometimes I question it myself. But I was living in New York City previous to living here and I just found it was a good 180; a relaxing place to be after doing the grind in the city for years. I also thought with the blues being indigenous to the South, I may be able to relate more to the people — which is true in a sense, but on the other hand, there’s not as much blues around here as you might think. It’s kind of an uphill battle for the most part, being that most of the crowd is young college kids and it’s just an easygoing tropical beach town — it feels a little against the grain here.
CP: Going back a little further, what first drew you into blues music?
DC: I started playing the trumpet when I was very young. I studied jazz and I found that it was kind of a segue into the blues. Blues is the roots of jazz, and I just felt attracted to the nuances of the blues, kind of like it was a little more spiritually decadent. I just liked the mystique about it, about the early guys selling their souls supposedly for the right to play, like the whole Robert Johnson story.
CP: What is the sexiest thing about the blues?
DC: It’s all a courting process for the most part and one of the sexy things is in light of the music today that’s basically right in your face — blues is more of an interpretory thing. It’s all kind of double entendres, and they have a way of being more blunt, I think, if you use your mind.