Poignant ‘Pickin’ on Christmas’ from Davis Causey & Jay Smith

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

ABOUT Tom Clarke

Tom Clarke
From pre-war blues to the bluegrass of the Virginia hills, Tom Clarke has a passion for most any kind of deep-rooted American music, and has been writing about it for 25 years. He’s particularly fond of anything from Louisiana, Los Lobos, and the Allman Brothers Band and its ever-growing family tree. Tom’s reviews and articles have appeared in BluesPrint, the King Biscuit Times, Hittin’ The Note, Kudzoo, Blues Revue, Elmore, Blues Music Magazine, and now, Tahoe Onstage. Tom and his wife Karen have raised four daughters in upstate New York. They split their time between the Adirondack Mountains and coastal South Carolina.

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