The title “Pickin’ on Christmas” suggests a bluegrass album. But the riches inside that Athens, Georgia guitarists Davis Causey and Jay Smith offer are beautiful, jazz-based instrumental takes of seven Christmas classics and one moving original played with a small, swinging combo featuring Randall Bramblett on sax and Jeff Reilly on drums.
They recorded the album in 1998 and Causey pressed 100 CDs as gifts for family and friends. Soon after, Smith passed away. Now, with his 60-year career for the most part in the rearview mirror, the very impressive Davis Causey looked back and decided to share these beautiful, personal performances in time for the holidays, and in tribute to his friend.
Cheerful in large part, the songs are uplifting always, wiping away strife, and especially so when they settle into deep reverence. At the time the recordings were made, Causey was the guitarist in longtime friend and brilliant writer and performer Randall Bramblett’s band, co-writing many of Bramblett’s best songs. Their partnership began 20 years earlier yet, in the Allman Brothers jazz/fusion offshoot Sea Level featuring Allmans and now Rolling Stones keyboardist Chuck Leavell.
Earlier yet, Causey can count dates with Marvin Gaye and Jackie Wilson on his resume. The vast experience shines through comfortable excellence. Causey and Smith’s guitars chime clearly and warmly, like a breeze through mosaics of wood and steel, while the rhythms carry and soothe. Christmas music full of big talent and big heart? What more needs to be said?
-Tom Clarke for Tahoe Onstage
Davis Causey & Jay Smith
‘Pickin’ on Christmas”’
Label: Strolling Bones Records
Release: Nov. 11