What do you do after they base a TV series on your album, then enable your next album to be an elaborate rumination on your role in the TV series? If you’re Davis Rogan, you use this golden opportunity to quit your day job as an elementary school music teacher, organize your life, get married and completely rebuild your career. Rogan has always been talented and he’s also been daring and visionary, but Davis Ex Machina marks his emergence into artistic maturity.
The opening track “No Blues” is a statement of purpose. “I used to write songs about being angry,” the first words he sings, puts us on notice that the troubled Davis of yore is a thing of the past.
“It’s liberating,” Davis admits on the following track, “So Long,” as he ruminates about events 20 years ago. “You and Me” is an absolutely gorgeous belly-rubbing ballad dedicated to Davis’ wife Stephanie. “Mr. Rogan” is a hilarious rap vamp about Davis’ days as a schoolteacher, showing up for work with a killer hangover and being hounded by the chorus of kids shouting, “Mr. Rogan! Mr. Rogan!”
Davis recounts the anecdote of the kid who told him, “Mr. Davis, you smell like my momma!” Elsewhere Davis smacks down the anonymous cyber trolls who attacked him online during the early days of his “Treme” success in “Snark”; writes a post-Katrina gentrification fable, “Big Treezy,” populated by lizards, bees, sparrows, squirrels and ants, with the final word to the wise from the ancient owl; drops a legalize marijuana reggae tune, “Prop Weed”; and pays tribute to his old pal “Uncle” Lionel Batiste with “Dapper Dirty Old Man.”
Davis is in terrific voice on this set with excellent support by band mainstays Jimbo Walsh on bass, Charlie Kohlmeyer on drums, Mark Levron on trumpet and Travis Flotsky on saxophones.
He brings in a star-studded collection of special guests including Jason Mingledorff, Derek Huston and Eric Fernhardt on saxophones, Craig Klein on trombone, Efrem Townes on trumpet, Kirk Joseph on sousaphone, Matt Perrine on bass and Debbie Davis and Arsene DeLay on vocals.
Rogan produced this meticulously recorded effort along with Andre Bohren, who also played drums on two tracks. Misha Kachkachishvill engineered, mixed and mastered the disc at Esplanade Studios.