At 90 years of age, legendary delta bluesman CeDell Davis has made the definitive album of his career, “Even The Devil Gets The Blues.” A collection of his best original songs, stories, and blues classics, the album features an all star cast of musical titans. Produced by Screaming Trees/Mad Season drummer Barrett Martin, the album also features Pearl Jam/Mad Season guitarist Mike McCready, REM guitarist Scott McCaughey, Arkansas bluesmen Greg & Zakk Binns, guitarist and vocalist Ayron Jones, saxophonist Skerik, trumpeter Dave Carter, vocalist Annie Jantzer, bassist Evan Flory-Barnes, and harmonica player Johnny Stephens.
Learning to play guitar in 1936 at the age of 10 in Helena, Arkansas, CeDell first battled with yellow fever and then a crippling bout of polio, which severely handicapped his hands. Fashioning a slide out of his mother’s butterknife, CeDell became the unwitting inventor of the butterknife slide guitar, a style imitated by others, but for CeDell it was out of necessity. A rising young star in the delta music scene in the 1940s and 50s, CeDell was snatched up by legendary bluesman Robert Nighthawk to become his right hand man, and the two went on to perform and record for a decade together in the 1950s. After several albums for various blues labels, CeDell made a series of excellent recordings in the 1990s for the Fat Possum label, where he was hailed by New York Times pop music critic Robert Palmer as “the greatest hardcore vocalist in the Mississippi delta.” In 2001 he was introduced to drummer/producer Barrett Martin and REM guitarists Peter Buck and Scott McCaughey, and the new line up made the excellent album “When Lightning Struck The Pine” (2002). In 2005 CeDell suffered a stroke and stopped playing altogether for a few years, that is, until he was found in an Arkansas nursing home by bluesmen Greg & Zakk Binns, who started working with CeDell and getting him to sing again, which resuscitated his career to the degree that they were able to do two European tours and still continue to play blues festivals and shows in the Deep American South.
In 2014, CeDell and the Binns recruited Barrett Martin to again help CeDell make the critically acclaimed come-back album “ Last Man Standing” (2015), and this brings us to the imminent release of CeDell’s newest album, “Even The Devil Gets The Blues” (October 14th, 2016). But that’s not all – there is also a feature length documentary film of the same name about CeDell’s remarkable life, done by award winning director Tad Fettig and producers Valda Witt and Barrett Martin.
Our very special night at National Sawdust will feature a glimpse of the upcoming film, followed by a Q & A with CeDell, the musicians, and the filmmakers, where you can get a living history lesson from a true blues master who has literally seen it all. We will then round out the evening with a raucous set of delta blues from a 90 year old blues master and his rockin’ band.