Material: You may remember Alana Davis from her poppy, characteristically ‘90s hit, “32 Flavors.” However, the smoky-voiced Manhattanite has adopted a more reggae- and jazz-infused sound in recent years, perhaps influenced in part by her tenure in Jamaica, and of course her being the progeny of a jazz singer. What speaks loudest, though, are her lyrics, which are laden with clever wordplay and brutal honesty (as evidenced in song titles like “Fuck Friend”). Her newer catalog may take a little warming up to, as the tunes are not commercial AC fodder, and they lack some of the pop sensibility of “32 Flavors,” but Davis’ “Lullaby,” which is the one song she played on acoustic by herself, truly showcases her resonant voice and lyrical prowess.
Musicianship: The current Alana Davis lineup consists of Sam Wright on guitar, who also doubles as musical director, Adam Topol on drums, and newbie, Derrick Wong on bass. The air-tight rhythm section are all industry vets, having played with the likes of Jack Johnson, Matisyahu, and the Wailers, to name a few. Wright’s impeccable guitar inflections and impressive pedal dancing never once stepped on Davis’ vocals or guitar playing. Wong was completely in line with Topol’s one drops, and both brought an enviable snap and effortlessness to their playing. Davis undoubtedly steals the show with her pitch-perfect vocals, but her unusual and potentially perilous guitar tunings were also impressive to watch.
Performance: Never one to shy away from f-bombs and “real talk” in between songs, Davis had the audience roaring with applause and laughter. There was a bit of a lull and fuddling during some song transitions, but that was immediately forgiven due to her affable nature, and “rock & roll earth mother” semblance. While the band is undeniably killer, and the songs are well crafted and performed masterfully, what sells the show is Davis herself; this artist’s self-assuredness, humor, humility and obvious talent make her the ultimate “cool girl.”
Summary: It is clear that Alana Davis has shed her skin, become richer in experience (she stepped away from the business for a number of years, got married, and had a kid), and really come into her own since her major label debut at age 23. With a voice that could stop traffic, and unapologetic, refreshingly honest lyrics, it’s easy to fall in love with Davis…or, all over again.