For a debut album, Louisiana-born Ron Daviesâ€™s Silent Song through the Land (A&M, 1970) is a world-weary and somber affair of startling economy. The brevity of the arrangements and the unadorned quality of delivery marks this out as a minor American stroke of genius.
Had Nick Drake gone into an emotional tailspin and then sat around a campfire in Texas, this is how his final album might have evolved: dark, stark, and full of angst. On eight songs in fewer than twenty-five minutes, Davies delivers diverse moods and tones. American and gothic; you never notice the briefness. A lesson in leaving things out, of not being frightened of simplicity, and should be a blueprint, instead of being unjustly obscure.
â€œWhat Life Must Be Life For Someâ€ is the song Johnny Cash should have wrapped his throat around and made his own. Brave and somber, it paints a detached portrait of the trials life hurls at many. There are subtle echoes of Dylan in the songwriting and vocal delivery, but Davies is no Bob â€œalso ran,â€ and is ably abetted on the sessions by Jim Keltner, Leon Russell, and Larry Knechtel.
â€œIt Ainâ€™t Easyâ€ is the howl of disappointment David Bowie made his own on The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust (actually a leftover from his Hunky Dory sessions), managing to render a quintessential American piece so seamlessly English. Bowie, or perhaps Mick Ronson, also helped himself to the guitar riff from the title track for his skewed tribute to Andy Warhol, as well as borrowing one or two of the vocal tics of Mr. Davies. While the original version failed to chart, Three Dog Night made â€œIt Ainâ€™t Easyâ€ into the title song of one of their smash albums in the early '70s. Rita Jean Bodine also covered it.
Ron Davies made one other album for A&M called UFO, and continued to record and release albums until his untimely death a few short years ago. Though a signing-in album, Silent Song Through the Land sounds like someone signing off. It easily ranks as the American Pink Moon. - Robert Cochrane
Silent Song Through the Land was released on CD via Universal Japan in February 2006.
Mr. Cochrane is a poet and writer living in Manchester, England. His work has appeared in Mojo, Attitude, and Dazed & Confused. He has published three collections of poems, and is presently completing Gone Tomorrow, a biography of the rock singer Jobriath, which will appear via SAF in 2007.