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DERBY 760; MARCH 1951



No artist deserves to be judged strictly by their first three sides released, especially when that artist was as doggedly determined just to get to this point in the first place.

Eunice Davis was thirty years old before she got her break after taking a job at The Apollo Theater as an usherette just to get a chance to get close to the lifestyle she dreamed of leading. When she managed to impress a few artists, including rock sax star Freddie Mitchell, she was given an opportunity that Mitchell’s label almost scuttled before even getting a chance to open her mouth.

He insisted she get to sing and the only song she got to cut that day became a well-deserved hit which got her a full session a month later.

But while both that hit and the top side of this record were definitely better than average rock records, two steps beyond racy into downright suggestive territory, it’s also becoming clear that she’s still got plenty to learn vocally beyond merely shocking you with the topics she’s tackling.


The Sun Goes Down
It should go without saying that singing well is not easy. It’s a pretty safe bet that most everyone reading this is a music fan and yet how many would feel comfortable singing a tune in front of people. Even those who feel emboldened by their alleged drunken karaoke triumphs need to remember that few ever left on the arm of a talent scout and if not for the copious amounts of alcohol and peer pressure few would get past the first stanza before fleeing in shame at what was coming out of their mouths.

All of which is to say that when you hear a professional singer like Eunice Davis you still need to be aware that while her natural talents are far greater than most, she’s got good projection, stays in key, etc., etc., she still is more like raw clay than a finished sculpture.

Like most singers Davis has a comfort zone that she can handle pretty well. For her it’s the mid-tempo rhythmic delivery she used on Rock Little Daddy which required a narrow range and whose rigid structure kept her from straying too far off the path. Within those confines she was very good, her brassy attitude overcoming a slightly shrill tone allowing her to pull it off wonderfully.

But on the top half of this record, I’m A Wild West Woman, despite an even more salacious lyrical road to navigate, she exceeds her boundaries as a singer… though the compact up and down structure is retained, the song is pitched higher and her voice, which had been almost conversational at times on the first record, now acts like a newsboy on the corner hawking papers, raising in volume when it’s not needed which only draws attention to the technical limitations she’s saddled with.

Evening Train has the right idea in that it’s a much different subject for her to handle which should be perfect for diversifying her output while letting her to slow her delivery down and use a more introspective tone, yet because it’s tackled in the same blaring manner it fails to connect vocally and without some naughty lyrics to distract you it fails to connect thematically as well.


Don’t Know Where I’m Going
We can probably save five hundred words by limiting the musical analysis to this: Quiet down, Eunice. There’s no need to shout.

Seriously, that’s it. She’s too loud which means her voice sounds even more shrill than it would at a lower volume.

Furthermore, unlike the horny anticipation of The Orgy At The O.K.Corral that she displayed on the A-side, here the song doesn’t lend itself to these kind of vocal extremes.

This is a sad song. She’s departing on the Evening Train because she’s breaking up with her fella and wishes she didn’t have to but he cheated and she wisely packed her bags to go. She may be trying to use this to get him to apologize, as she seems to be dragging out the departure as long as possible, but if so her strategy is wrong because showing any indecision, let alone the kind of vocal anguish she’s displaying, only reassures him that she’ll be the one to cave in and stay.

Of course that kind of internal conflict is all too accurate at times so it’s not that the sentiments themselves don’t ring true, but as a song it’s pursuing two different paths. The lyrics are showing resolute determination while her voice is expressing anguish but there’s no sense of her even being aware of the ground she’s navigating, so if you ignore the lyrics altogether you get an entirely different sense of the record than if you read the lyrics and didn’t listen to how she’s putting it across.

When they’re both factored in however, which is how records are generally listened to, you don’t know which to believe. It probably doesn’t matter though because her voice is so piercing that you lose any sympathy for her you otherwise might have.

What she needs is a lesson in moderation. It’s one of the first rules of acting… or for that matter interacting with other people in everyday life… when you want to really drive home a point lower your voice, don’t raise it. Draw them in to focus on the words and the meaning and the emotions behind them.

Here all she’s doing is using volume to push us all away.


Ain’t No Point In Staying
The world of independent record labels with its eye on the clock and the bottom line was hardly the place to broaden your skills. You were given a few hours to cut four tracks and quickly shown the door so the next act could come in and lay down their own sides. If those records didn’t do much the door was closed in your face the next time you came around.

Davis was clearly a good songwriter and though she was never going to be a great singer her problems were not that hard to overcome if she had more time to rehearse with the band, provided the bandleader knew how to address it.

Freddie Mitchell may have – though his failure to rein in Joe Black’s tinny piano on most of their instrumentals perhaps suggested otherwise – yet this was 1951 and “rehearsing with the band” was viewed as radical by record companies and a colossal waste of time.

Evening Train therefore becomes a casualty to this kind of limited vision and narrow thinking. Naturally a song like this was more mundane than the dirtier themed sides she drew interest for, but to build a lasting career you need more than simply an endless string of uninhibited carnal themes and honking saxes.

This was a song that would have at least offered something different to offset those but in delivering it in the same way she would a song with an off-color message the deeper meaning she was going for was lost and with it maybe her chance at ever growing beyond the one note performer she was shaping up to be just two singles into her career.


(Visit the Artist page of Eunice Davis for the complete archive of her records reviewed to date)