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CEDELL DAVIS

9:30 p.m., White Water Tavern. $10.

 

Life hasn't been easy for CeDell Davis. But Arkansas's greatest living blues man abides. Polio, contracted when he was 9 years old, stripped his right hand of its dexterity. So he flipped his guitar upside down and learned to play left-handed, using a table knife as a slide and creating one of the singular guitar sounds in blues. A stampede in a St. Louis tavern in 1957 took away what strength he had left in his legs. But he kept on playing, for a while with Robert Nighthawk, with whom he had a standing gig at the Jack Rabbit in Pine Bluff, and later, as a solo performer. Before he'd released any recordings, Robert Palmer mentioned him prominently in his seminal “Deep Blues,” and then produced his 1993 solo debut “Feel Like Doin' Something Wrong” on Fat Possum. Later releases featured backing by the likes of Col. Bruce Hampton and the Aquarium Rescue Unit and Peter Buck of R.E.M. and Barrett Martin of the Screaming Trees. Several years back, Davis suffered a stroke that keeps him from playing guitar — or performing live much — but he's still got one of the great, raw blues hollers (Palmer, in his liner notes for “Feel Like,” called him “quite possibly the greatest hard core vocalist around”). He's joined by one-man-band Johnny Lowebow, R.L.'s son Duwayne Burnside, Tom Houston Jones and the Snake Hips and, fingers crossed, Lightnin' Malcolm.
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