His visual style is equal parts ’60s, ’70s and early ’80s. His movements are the natural strokes of a born rock star, and he has a voice and a smooth style of playing to justify it all. He’s the total package – singer, songwriter, guitarist, producer, solo performer, collaborator, curator, recording artist and stage performer. And while he has fans around the world, he’s not yet a household name. Though he should be. Meet Bart Davenport:
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Riding over a San Francisco freeway with Ash Reiter and Will Halsey one sunny afternoon in 2010, my ears perked up at the sound of what bore a striking resemblance to a vintage early ’70s Philly soul recording. When I asked Ash who we were listening to, she told me it was Bart Davenport. The song was “A Young One,” from Bart’s 2008 album Palaces.
Being as excited as I was about Bart’s music just from this one song, I jumped at the opportunity to attend his Chasing The Moon premier that summer. Even though Bart wasn’t scheduled to perform, as tradition dictates that the featured artist never actually performs live at their own premier, I figured I could at least hear a bit more of what Bart was all about. As it turned out, one of the featured performers that night – none other than Obo Martin – became so excited at the conclusion of the screening of Bart’s Chasing The Moon episode that he took over the proceedings and convinced Bart to perform a song. Bart agreed, but only to play a cover. The song he played, The Incredible String Band’s “You Get Brighter,” never left my head after that night. As luck would have it, Bart included a rendition of the song on his all-covers album, 2011’s Searching For Bart Davenport.
Naturally, from this moment on, Bart was on my wish list of artists to profile. Along the road to Bart’s Parlour to Parlour interview, I learned that he has been a Bay Area musical institution for the better part of the past 10 years, at least in terms of his album release history as a solo performer. His smooth as silk baritone recalls Boz Scaggs with not as creamy an affect, as he straddles the line between Beatlesque pop and blue-eyed soul. His musical accompaniment varies – sometimes he plays with a power trio, sometimes with a larger band, and sometimes solo acoustic (not unlike the subject of episode 33, Quinn DeVeaux).
And while Bart tends to “keep it classic” (as he so eloquently put it during our interview) when making music as a solo performer, he does occasionally venture into more forward looking, 21st century sounds (most prominently with Honeycut, who played to huge crowds on the festival circuit in 2007). If you’ve ever installed the Leopard or Snow Leopard operating systems on a Macintosh computer, you’re likely already familiar with Honeycut’s song “Exodus Honey,” which plays during the welcome video that starts upon completion of the installation process.
If you’re asking yourself, “why haven’t I heard of this guy till now?” you’re probably not alone, even in San Francisco. While Bart has plenty of fans all over the world – he has toured Europe extensively, not to mention the rest of the U.S. – he made a very good point when we talked about the double-edged sword that is the San Francisco Bay Area scene. While it’s not in the interview video, I felt it was worth reprinting here:
“So many people [play music], it’s sort of like the local pastime. I think, unfortunately, there’s not quite enough business to support all the talent. There’s more people playing than there are venues to play in, or labels to put out the music, or booking agents to book the acts… less people want to do all the less glamorous, behind the scenes jobs. Everybody wants to play. But that’s cool, you know?”
Yes, in a way it is cool. It’s part of the character of the Bay Area music scene in that it forces so many of us into a DIY approach as we rethink what constitutes a music venue, where our audience is and how we promote what we do. It keeps us on our toes. But clearly we could use some more promoters, because this music deserves to be heard by more than just our home base. Bart Davenport, for example, really ought to be a household name by now. His time is overdue.
A note about the performance:
We had originally planned on recording Bart in a local venue with his electric band for the performance video, but for various logistical reasons it didn’t come to pass (though we’re still talking about filming his electric band at a later date). Instead, we decided to go with a solo acoustic performance of “In The Dark,” a song originally written and recorded by the Chicago-based indie band The Changes. Bart’s cover of the song appears on Searching For Bart Davenport.
While we usually start Parlour to Parlour interviews at home, this time we started away from home and ended with the performance in Bart’s space, next to his vintage late 1970s turntable. In the interview video, we seamlessly transitioned from the studio recording into Bart’s live recording, and aside from the obvious differences in recording quality, performance-wise they were nearly identical (though you can hear a split second difference where the two performances overlap) so a cross-fade was very easy.
Bart Davenport, “In The Dark”
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- Buy Searching For Bart Davenport (Bart’s latest release, a solo acoustic album of covers)
- Buy With All Due Respect (recorded by Bart’s side project, Incarnations)
- Buy Palaces (Bart’s most recent album of all original material)
Keep up with Bart at his official website:
Bart Davenport is an Antenna Farm Records recording artist: