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Daniel Johnston

Kate Davis pays tribute to Daniel Johnston

The Deli isn’t sure how many résumés include qualifications like “adolescent jazz prodigy who shreds on double bass and who holds a degree from the Manhattan School of Music”, “live gig played with Jeff Goldblum", “appearance on a U. of Miami musicology panel alongside Ben Folds”, “taking a left turn into indie rockdom with a widely-praised debut LP in the format”, and finally, “co-writing a hit song with Ms. Sharon Van Etten”. Based on these credentials, if you're ever competing with Kate Davis for a job whatever it may be, we'll just go ahead and wish you better luck next time. 

In case you’ve not seen nor heard the music video for the Von Etten/Kate Davis collab the song is a lovely aching ode to adolescence (Rachel Trachtenburg plays Sharon’s younger doppelganger in the video) and on the visual side it's a lovely aching ode to NYC independent music venues--past and present, living and deceased--with full knowledge that the city plows on as always steamrolling its past and building who knows what in its place.

Back to Kate Davis. Her latest release dropped yesterday--a sneak preview single from her upcoming full-album tribute to Daniel Johnston (1961-2019) who was an OG of what some people call “outsider music." Johnston launched his music career by handing out cassettes of his homemade music at the McDonald's where he worked in Austin, Texas ("would you like some fries with your free copy of Songs of Pain?") and then crashing the stage when MTV was in the city filming a special on "The New Sincerity" which hardly anyone remembers anymore. Now that’s DIY. Also those photos you've seen of Kurt Cobain wearing a t-shirt that says “Hi, How Are You” that’s Daniel Johnston

Back to Kate Davis, really this time. Kate says "when I first heard Daniel Johnston I was struck by the directness and clarity in his writing. I wanted to gain perspective into that directness." See below for her stirring rendition of “Oh No” and see below that for Ms. Davis discussing the bond she feels with Daniel Johnston--his unique gift for songwriting and his lifelong struggle with mental health issues.

Strange Boy: Daniel Johnston 'Retired Boxer' Cover Album is being released in conjunction with the Hi, How Are You Project, an NPO formed by Daniel Johnston’s family to raise awareness around and remove stigma from mental illness. You can pre-order it on blue vinyl whoooooa like how much more blue, none more blue! But before the album drops in early 2021 you'd be advised to check out her already-existing one called Trophy. Kate's music casts an intimate glow but it can be muscular too case in point being the title track. This song has what we in the industry refer to as an arc. At first it sounds like it just needs a hug but by the middle it’s trying to seduce you and then by the end it’s ready to throttle you but consensually no doubt. (Jason Lee)

photo up top by Erica Synder

Show Review: Daniel Johnston & Dave Cloud at Exit/In 10.27

Loved poet and fearless experimenter, Daniel Johnston played Exit/In this past Sunday night. Opening his set with a few solo songs, it was clear that age and health played a factor in his ability to perform, nonetheless, he was persevering. After a short break, Johnston reappeared with a full band. Flipping through his lengthy song book, Johnston would call out song titles, many of which band didn’t know. “Play whatever you want,” he would answer with a smile. After a humorous, yet powerfully-dark joke, and wishing the audience to find true love as an early Christmas gift, Johnston ended with an acappella version of “Funeral Home.” Brazen sincerity made Johnston’s performance truly captivating. Persistence through odds that most would quit from made it unforgettable. Maybe instead of trying to explain human existence to aliens by shooting DNA codes into space, we should just shoot a few Daniel Johnston tapes out there?

Local legend and dive bar haunt, Dave Cloud opened up with his Gospel of Power. Pumping out punk-rock tunes with a mixture of poetic bouts, Cloud paced the stage while doing his well-known take on interpretive dance. This was the first time I have gotten to see The Gospel of Power and they lived up to the hype I’ve heard about their performances. Cloud’s antics, entertaining personality and one-of-a-kind “rough as gravel” voice was absorbing. -Michael Perry


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