Bryn Davies

So the Grammys were this weekend…

I know, I know.

A sizable percentage of you are probably groaning, closing this tab of your browser and saying something like, “Ugh, I can’t stand hearing about those self-congratulating millionaires and the mass-marketed, radio-friendly, auto-tuned crap they give each other awards for making.” Maybe a few of you even added air quotes when you said “making” to drive the point home. Would have been a nice touch.

As much as I enjoy and care about the Grammys, I can’t blame people for detecting, and reacting to, a degree of fakeness. Sunday’s broadcast certainly had its share of artifice, with a Maroon 5/Alicia Keys duet that perfectly embodied pop music’s insider culture and a Bob Marley tribute that hit so far off the mark it seemed genuinely bizarre. (Speaking of which, I made a note a little while ago to write a post about how Bruno Mars might not be human. He’s too good. His voice, stage presence and skin are all unreasonably perfect, and he has this general aura of unreality about him. I’m starting to think that birthers have been rooting around for the wrong Hawaii birth certificate…)

But here’s the thing. There are real people at the Grammys, too. Actual human beings who buy garlic and orange juice at the grocery store and make music that finds success on its own terms. I thought I’d use today’s post to tell you about one of those people, someone whose appearance on the TV screen during Sunday’s ceremony made me cheer out loud as reflexively as I would have if someone had told me that Chris Brown was stuck in an airport somewhere and wouldn’t be available for reaction shots. That someone is Bryn Davies.

The first time I encountered Davies, she was playing her upright bass alongside Justin Townes Earle at The Southern in Charlottesville, VA. This was back in March of 2010, and while I’m sure Davies wasn’t the first double bass player I saw perform, she was easily the most memorable. Earle’s ensemble consisted of just guitar, bass and fiddle, but Davies’ aggressive handiwork conjured an invisible fourth member, her right hand slapping the strings against the neck in many of the spots a drummer might have added emphasis. Davies’ style, which was made extra apparent by the intimacy of the venue’s setup, was a genuine revelation to me, changing the way I looked at her instrument.

Fast forward to Sunday night’s telecast, which saw her performing as part of the all-female band that’s been touring with Jack White in support of Blunderbuss, the Grammy-nominated album Davies helped record. Those few minutes watching Davies slap her way through “Love Interruption,” along with the minutes that followed when White switched over to his all-male band for “Freedom At 21,” represented a stark departure from the show’s painfully contrived performance pairings, and I couldn’t have been happier as I watched. Some of that happiness was derived from being a huge fan of White and Blunderbuss, but seeing Davies on such an enormous stage was incredibly satisfying. 

There she was. That real, flesh-and-blood human being I’d seen do incredible things with the slightest amplification in a room so small it could probably fit inside the Staples Center some absurd number of times. And she’s just one example. The Lumineers, The Black Keys, Brittany Howard… they’re all people who have worked incredibly hard to built an audience the right way, and as their reward, they’re put in this high-pressure environment in which Taylor Swift is overreacting to everything, Chris Brown and Frank Ocean are feuding, and Katy Perry is wearing this. Can you imagine? It seems absolutely insane to me. But instead of writing the whole thing off, I say we watch and cheer for people like Bryn Davies. She’s earned it.

Watch a clip from that 2010 Justin Townes Earle show above and hear one of Davies’ contributions to Blunderbuss below.

Jack White — “Hip (Eponymous) Poor Boy” [Spotify/iTunes]

4 Comments

Filed under #live

4 responses to “Bryn Davies

  1. Yes, and as I told my kids, as much as I dislike fun. at least the four people who accepted the Best New Artist award were the same people who wrote the songs and played on the record, unlike some of the more machine-tooled stuff on display.

    On a personal note, the only things I actually like that were presented during the broadcast are Frank Ocean (although his performance was underwhelming, Channel Orange is fabulous) and Kanye & Jay-Z’s No Church In The Wild, which is a great song.

    • I had the same reaction to Ocean’s performance. I saw he posted to Tumblr that he couldn’t hear his keyboards, which would make the whole thing make sense, given that a quick search of YouTube would show that he’s perfectly capable of singing that song in key. It was a tense moment though, because I have such enormous respect for channel ORANGE.

      Agreed on “No Church In The Wild.” I was glad to see that was properly recognized, and I loved Jay-Z’s joke about The-Dream’s hat in the acceptance speech. (Did you notice they stopped the cut-off music when Jay-Z approached the mic? It’s incredible how much respect he garners.)

      I think if I were to write this post again, I might make the point that even the most famous people in that arena started out as regular people who were unsure of whether they had a future in music. It’s a hard argument to make, though, given how out of touch some of those people can seem.

  2. caryn r

    Ah, the Grammy’s, a love-hate relationship that I just can’ t resist. This year I was mesmerized by the brilliance of Jack White and was glad to read your post about Bryn Davies. Loved your observation about Bruno Mars. So agree . . . he is that good and always so happy, a naturally gifted performer! Caught a radio interview with him after his hilarious skit on SNL a few months ago. Try to check it out . . . so funny!

  3. Ralph Howard

    check out Bryn with Rowan,Rice & Gilchrist….’Cold Rain & Snow, Shadygrove,….even the cameraman was mesmerised….

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