When it comes to contemporary music, Detroit-based vocalist Thornetta Davis can easily be viewed as a true torch-bearer, having populated the contemporary Blues scene for many years by expanding upon a style that builds upon the fundamentals laid down by such classy ladies as Koko Taylor and Aretha Franklin.
Crowned ‘Detroit’s Queen of the Blues’ in 2015, Davis is a multi-talented International Singer & Songwriter and winner of over 30 Detroit Music Awards. She tells her stories with incredible delivery, and always leaves her audiences wanting more, thanks to her strong, commanding, melodic and smooth vocal acumen.
You can catch her in a special performance with special guests Civil Infraction on Saturday, February 11th at Scotty’s Sand Bar, 1201 Evergreen in Bay City. Doors open at 6 pm with the show beginning at 7 pm; and tickets are only $15.00 and are also available in advance at brownpapertickets.com, Electric Kitsch in Bay City, K&B Mini-Mart in Munger, and Records & Tapes Galore in Saginaw.
Thornetta’s talent and reputation have led her to opening slots with such stellar artists as Bonnie Raitt, Gladys Knight and Etta James, and she also sang backing vocals on Bob Seger’s 1991 album, The Fire Inside. Hailing from Detroit, and given the legacy of Motown, it isn't surprising that Davis was drawn to the Blues; but at what point did she know her life would be dedicated to music? "Growing up with so many different styles of music going on, I've never been one to fall into a category. I love Jazz, Top-40, and R&B, but Blues is the base. I consider the Blues 'God's music'."
As a testament to her eclectic nature, Thornetta's first album, Sunday Morning Music, was released on the Seattle based Sub Pop label, which accumulated a storied reputation as the Independent label that launched the careers of Grunge bands like Nirvana. Her song Cry from that release was featured on the HBO hit The Sopranos. "I'd been doing work with this band they signed called Big Chief," explains Thornetta. "The label liked my work so much they wanted me to record as a solo artist."
And the rest is history. In the years since that release, Thornetta has also opened for some heavy hitters such as Ray Charles, Buddy Guy, and Koko Taylor. Are there any of those performers that stand out as role models, or does she feel each is distinct in their own way? "I would say the one that truly stands out in my mind is Ray Charles," reflects Thornetta. "I opened for him once in Grand Rapids, and performed with him in Detroit. He specifically asked for me to join him, which was a true honor. That man is special, in so many ways."
Now 20 years after her debut CD release, Davis has just dropped her second follow-up CD entitled Honest Woman, which is getting rave reviews and advancing her career even further into the expanding Blues market. “Originally I thought I would be recording my next CD shortly after my first solo album was released in 1996,” she reflects. “But it ended up taking me 20 years to do the follow-up, which is a blessing in a way. I’ve been writing songs continuously since my first release and performing some of them, too; so I had a big backlog of material to choose from. My music is always inspired by the moment and what’s going on in my life.”
“All of my influences, whether it be alternative rock, jazz, or soul & blues come from an original RB background,” she continues,” so all those influences are present in my new music. Being from Detroit I love all kinds of music, but ultimately it’s all blues-based.”
“Being in the Blues scene for so long, I tend to follow my niche and what really inspires and drives me to create is the Blues. Being influenced by other genres, I incorporate what I love about them into my own Blues, which you can hear in my sound. I don’t stray too far away from the Blues because I find it so inspiring.
Davis was recently nominated for two Blues Awards in the International Blues Music Awards and is encouraged at how attention is returning the Blues genre from a national perspective. “I think Blues music is on the upswing again,” she comments. “Nowadays when I listen to commercials and TV shows I hear a lot of blues incorporated into the music. Once it was soul, but now it’s back to horn-driven Blues and background singers, which I incorporate into my own sound as well. I don’t think the Blues will ever go away and find more and more people coming around to it.”
When asked what people can expect from her upcoming performance at Scotty’s, Thornetta says “I’m going to be play a lot of stuff off my new CD, but also several familiar songs. It’s going to be a funky rockin’ blues time for certain! As I alluded to earlier, I'm drawn to a lot of different musical styles, and have my influences, but it's all about the interpretation you lend to a song, which is hard to define, for me at least, probably because I'm so close to it."