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Davell Crawford – My Gift to You

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“On Crawford’s fist album in more than ten years, the ‘Piano Prince Of New Orleans’ has certainly given us a gift we won’t soon forget.” –Daily Vault

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“Davell Crawford’s My Gift To You is an exceptional record. It is so open, honest, and genuine it feels like it is a gift. I feel lucky to have heard it and that Mr. Crawford chose to share it. It is heartbreaking, brilliant, and moving, as well as wildly entertaining.” –PopShifter

“His latest album, properly titled My Gift to You, is originally incredible. His stellar piano skills are beautifully complemented by several Crescent City favorites, from Walter “Wolfman” Washington to Nicholas Payton and his amazing vocalists, the Davell Crawford Singers. My Gift to You is truly a gift. It is rhythmic and sultry, almost therapeutic.” –Where Y’At

“The New Orleans pianist’s first album in 14 years is a richly textured, genre-spanning batch of songs that deal with loss and yearning for home. His smooth vocals and help from some famous hometown friends make for an exhilarating return.” –USA Today

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Product Description

It’s been thirteen years since New Orleans pianist and vocalist Davell Crawford has graced the world with an album, and the grandson of James “Sugarboy” Crawford (of “Jock-A-Mo” fame) wants to make it clear where his musical allegiance lies with My Gift To You (out June 11, 2013), a heartfelt tribute to his birthplace and home, Louisiana.

Crawford partners for the first time with Basin Street Records to produce this heavily orchestrated opus to the place that shaped him into the “Piano Prince of New Orleans.” Self produced and recorded at various studios throughout Louisiana, My Gift To You features a slew of the biggest names including Big FreediaDonald Harrison, Jr.Bobbi HumphreyDr. JohnNicholas PaytonSteve RileyWalter ‘Wolfman’ Washington, and the Davell Crawford Singers. Crawford’s boundless musical ties are evident, as he features in addition to the list above: Detroit Brooks, Bernard Grobman, Clarence Johnson III, Norwood ‘Geechie’ Johnson, Marlon Jordan, Bill Summers, Derwin ‘Big D’ Perkins, June Yamagishi and many others. Mark Brooks (bass) and Joseph Dyson, Jr. (drums) hold down the rhythm for this truly collaborative project.

Crawford’s fingers have been dancing on ivory since he was three, and he’s been gracing stages since age seven. “It is impossible to hear more than the first two minutes of Crawford without smiling and breaking into some serious foot tapping, there’s just no other way to describe it, unless, of course, you’re dead,” says Chuck Graham of the Tucson Citizen.

Influenced by his experiences growing up in Louisiana attending Baptist and Catholic churches, his godmother Roberta Flack and the many tight-knit musical circles of New Orleans that he fell into due to his preternatural talent Crawford has decided to bring the focus of this work to the experiences, emotions, and memories associated with Louisiana. He pays respect to the greats of New Orleans composition and piano with re-workings of Allen Toussaint’s “Southern Nights”and the James Booker rendition of “Junco Partner.” He shows his flair for re-invention of pop hits with covers of “The River of Dreams” (Billy Joel), and stirring renditions of “Can’t Find My Way Home” (Steve Winwood) and “Fire & Rain” (James Taylor).

While My Gift To You celebrates the immeasurable experiences of Louisiana with songs like “Southern Woman (Ain’t Nothin’ Like A)” and “Louisiana Sunday Afternoon” it reveals itself as a deeply personal account of Crawford’s unique experiences with originals like the celebratory “Creole Man” and the ballad “Until I See You In A While.” The album fittingly concludes with the gospel-tinged “Ode to Louisiana,” an inspiring love letter that sums up the album in its opening line, “Louisiana, I love you.”

Liner Notes

Davell Crawford is a passionate keyboardist, vocalist, composer and arranger. He can always be relied on for bringing deeply felt emotion and energy to every endeavor. That spirit prevails on My Gift To You, an ambitious, dramatically arranged and meticulously produced album born out of love. The wonderful quandary that runs through Crawford’s original works and the covers that he carefully selected to include is that it’s never absolutely clear whether his longing is for a place, a lover or perhaps both. He expresses the ache quietly on his beautiful ballad, “Until I See You in A While,” initially accompanied only by his piano. “It won’t be long until I get home, until we laugh and sing and play a brand new song,” he promises.

Home, be it New Orleans, where Crawford grew up, Louisiana, where he was born or the dear friends who beckon, pulls at his heart just as it has done for all of those who endured the separateness forced on them by Hurricane Katrina’s devastating aftermath. “I’ve made the quietness my new home,” he offers on his brilliant, self-penned, highly orchestrated “Stranger in My Own Home.” Crawford introduces himself and the album in an epic manner on his celebratory “Creole Man.” Lyrically and instrumentally, it speaks of Louisiana’s mix of heritages that contribute and continue to influence local music. “I come from foreign lands to spread the news,” Crawford exultantly sings on this elaborately arranged song that incorporates Native American and African drumbeats. Crawford’s abilities as a lyricist and storyteller shine on this masterpiece as he makes reference to Louisiana’s French ancestry, Congo Square, where on Sundays slaves were allowed to maintain their African drumming culture, and second line parades that continue the heritage. It fittingly concludes with Crawford returning to his hometown of New Orleans by laying down some essential piano trills. They stand as a signature of the city and its legendary pianists – Tuts Washington, Fats Domino, James Booker, Professor Longhair, Dr. John, Huey Smith – who helped create and keep that sound alive. Crawford is definitely in that number. “I am the Creole man, I come to you today with words of love. I am the Creole man, I give to you my gifts, I give my hands…”

Crawford, the grandson of the great James “Sugar Boy” Crawford of “Jock-A-Mo” fame, made his first public appearance at the early age of seven playing favorite tunes from the likes of Ray Charles on a piano that belonged to the telescope guy outside of New Orleans’ famous Cafe du Monde where he’d go each Monday with his grandmother. While still a youngster, he made an impression on this city’s gospel community when, at just 10 years old, he became the accompanist to the St. Peter Claver Catholic Church choir. By the time he was 11, his talents were utilized by the St. Joseph Baptist Church where he became the choir director over the youth and young adult choruses. While renowned as a jazz, R&B, blues and funk musician, he continues performing in gospel, and those roots emerge in most endeavors. It’s heard in his effective use of call and response with his back-up vocalists including the members of his longtime handpicked collaborators The Davell Crawford Singers. At all times Crawford hears his vision just as anyone standing in front of a vocal ensemble must do. In the recording studio he would stop and say, “somebody get Wolfman {guitarist Walter “Wolfman” Washington}. I need him right here,” just for the perfect sound. “I can’t run away from Christian, spiritual or gospel music,” Crawford concedes. “In fact, you could look at this as a gospel album. Gospel is the truth. The whole album is the truth; every word on it is the truth. This is an album about Louisiana; this is an album about New Orleans, and this is an album about the people, my people, and their feelings and experiences. It is the gospel of my life, my friends and family – your friends and family. This is transparent as to what we’ve gone through.” Considering those who surrounded Crawford in the making of My Gift to You, it could also be deemed a family album. The core of the band features Crawford’s cousin, the exceptional, up-and-coming drummer Joe Dyson. Crawford considers brothers bassist Mark Brooks, who he met decades ago through their mutual activity in gospel, and guitarist Detroit Brooks like his uncles or sometimes even his own brothers. He says that percussionist Bill Summers of the Headhunters’ fame simply “adopted” him at their very first meeting. “He just loved Davell Crawford,” he adds with a laugh. “Primarily, when you talk about family it is, of course, your bloodline. But for us in New Orleans, we’re all one big happy family.”

The branches of the family tree extend beyond the rhythm section to include a bevy of guest artists who appear on the disc. They include fellow keyboardist/vocalist Mac Rebennack a.k.a. Dr. John, who was among many who kept an eye on Crawford during his budding career and is heard on two cuts. “Going Back to Louisiana,” which is a nod to Dr. John’s own swayin’ “Goin’ Back to New Orleans,” teams Crawford’s spectacular, trill-filled acoustic piano with the good doctor’s gritty vocals. New Orleans’ style of rhythm and blues remains alive and soulful in Crawford on this cut and in this city that never gave up on its good times feel. Crawford perpetuates the sound and essence of the Big Easy writing verses such as, “Life we live by the moonlit skies, the life we live for fun.” Dr. John is back to add a bit more swamp to “River,” a song by the iconic, Roberta Flack, Crawford’s godmother. This “River,” which when it comes to New Orleans means the mighty Mississippi, meanders through some unusual territory traveling a modern jazz route with saxophonists Donald Harrison and Clarence Johnson and ending with a hip detour into bounce with phenom Big Freedia the ‘Queen Diva.’

Amidst the wealth of exceptional original material from Crawford’s pen live several well chosen covers. For the first time, he went to a tune that for years he avoided, James Booker’s classic “Junco Partner Cud’in Joe.” Until recent years and despite numerous requests, he even declined to play the song live because, he says, it spoke of drugs and their associated life style. “About three years ago, I said, ‘Let me dissect this song, take a closer look at it. Actually listen to the words and the story.’ And I did and I started doing it. I was 14 years old getting requests to do this song, so of course, throughout my transitional period I’ve had a lot of time to realize this song’s not talking about me at all. I’ve never had an issue with drugs of any kind – just never embraced that life, thank God. I just didn’t want that sort of stuff anywhere around me. The song is what it is – it’s a testimony, it’s a story. A story of someone’s life experience. And I’d like to think that I’m some sort of a storyteller.” Crawford instinctively reinvented “Junco Partner Cud’in Joe,” stripping and slowing it down and making it feel more youngish, urban contemporary but still even more regretful. As he strategically places down some heartfelt piano runs and moaning vocals, the guitar of the always-tasty Walter “Wolfman” Washington accentuates the emptiness. Crawford brilliantly transforms this exceptional material as few or anyone else could. It stands as an embodiment of Booker whose uniqueness, like Crawford’s, came from supreme talent and soul. While Crawford’s vocals express a certain sultriness on “Junco Partner Cud’in Joe,” the next cut, Billy Joel’s more modern “The River of Dreams,” finds him flying high in mood and vocally employing his upper register. The trickle down of the melody puts his great range on display. Crawford takes it out in his own style. The arrangements for the background vocalists stylistically give the tune an African tinge that is reminiscent of a group like Ladysmith Black Mambazo and suddenly the river becomes the Nile or the Gambia.

The album’s “special guests” list, which includes jazz trumpeters Nicholas Payton and Marlon Jordan and roots-oriented percussionist Geechie Johnson, shows how deep Crawford tapped into New Orleans’ bountiful musical network. Beyond the musicians, he also had longtime associate, engineer David Farrell behind the console. Observing their interaction and the resulting sound made it clear that he and Crawford shared a deep understanding.

The Basin Street Records label shouts New Orleans with its stable of local artists who have enjoyed the closeness and the kinship of the Crescent City music community. It’s a warm spot for Crawford. “We feel like we are family,” says Crawford who had artists like vocalists Lady B.J. Crosby and Charmaine Neville arriving at the studio with armloads of hot, homemade food. “We fuss, we fight, we care for each other, we cuss each other out, we praise each other and we think about each other,” Crawford explains. “That’s family. They respect the way that I function. They respect the way that I live and breathe, my remoteness, and privacy. They respect the process in which and how I create, the way that I talk or administrate or delegate. Having family and friends around me grants me as much freedom as I need or want in order to be myself.” Trumpeter Clyde Kerr Jr., an educator at the New Orleans Center for the Creative Arts (NOCCA) when Crawford was a student, was quick to point out that the teachers at the noted school knew that the young pianist was a special student and needed a free rein. His talent and, yes, genius demanded that they give Crawford what he needed and stand back.

That philosophy has been carried out by all of those involved with My Gift To You, an album that moves with free will. Crawford admits that his detour into Southwest Louisiana on his original country tune, “Don’t Ever Be Blue” might surprise some. And few would associate Crawford with his featured guest here, Cajun fiddler/accordionist Steve Riley. It’s a beauty that could send Crawford down the trails that launched Aaron Neville on the country and western roads with “Grand Tour” or the great R&B artist Johnny Adams’ crossing over into the genre with “Release Me.” “I’m just revealing some things that have been a part of my musical world since I was a child,” he explains, mentioning some of his longtime country and bluegrass favorites like Hazel Dickens, Dolly Parton and Patsy Cline, Tammy Wynette, Loretta Lynn, and Kenny Rodgers. “I grew up listening to tons of country and I’ve always loved it. I still do very much. Writing ‘Don’t Ever Be Blue’, was very easy for me – very natural.” With his immense talent and experience in any number of genres, Crawford could have released a jazz album, a rhythm and blues album, a gospel album, a funk album or a blues album. And next time he just might. For this project, he decided to combine all of those styles in offering a very personal expression of Louisiana music as a tribute to its richness and its residents. “I figured I’d dedicate this album to New Orleans and to Louisiana so that the people, my people, can continue to heal and reminisce in a good way,” Crawford explains, referring particularly to the trauma experienced by so many following Hurricane Katrina. “In various ways people need to be reminded of some things that weren’t so good for them prior to August 29, 2005, that they can currently live with the fact that through it all they are still blessed – that things are getting better, that things have gotten better and that better things will continue to sprout and blossom for the better. My music, but mainly this album, is whatever it is for whoever needs it.” The lyric “I can’t find my way home” is a sentiment so familiar, so crucial to those who were and have been thrust from familiar realms to those unknown. The sadness that Crawford brings to the song, “I Can’t Find My Way Home,” written and made famous by Steve Winwood and Blind Faith, is crushing. There is a time to cry just as there is time to celebrate as Crawford pays a funkified tribute to a New Orleans favorite Frankie Beverly by including his and Maze’s hit, “Southern Girl.”

Many have referred to Davell Crawford as the Piano Prince of New Orleans, a title he shunned for many years because of its association with James Booker. Another master of the piano, the late great Eddie Bo of “Check Mr. Popeye” fame once told him, “You are the Piano Prince too.” Bo rightfully introduced Crawford with the regal title each time he introduced him. Others encouraged Crawford by reminding him that, unlike a king, there is more than one prince. “At this point it is there,” accepts Crawford of the title. Davell Crawford is indeed our Piano Prince of New Orleans. As heard on My Gift To You, he powerfully reigns with sophisticated style, spirituality, soulfulness, sincerity and the blessing of genius with which he is endowed.

On My Gift to You, Davell Crawford, who boasts one foot in the past and one foot squarely in the here-and-now, generously shares his huge musical talent, inspiration, compassion and love of the place where his soul was born and of those who nurtured it. For this musical milestone, the one-of-a-kind vocalist and keyboardist gathered together those people who’ve touched his life to join him on this multi-faceted journey. The self-penned masterpiece “Ode To Louisiana” is an emotional, musical voyage that, as he hauntingly sings accompanied by a 19-piece orchestra at the album’s finale, will one day find him back home. “Louisiana, I love you for keeping me so long. I promise never to forget you… and I promise to someday come home.”

– Geraldine Wyckoff, Music Journalist

Artist Note

At times it was simply because I was interested in other things. I wanted to actually be in New Orleans and really discover this great city… become a part of it. Traveling nearly non-stop for years and starting at an early age afforded me little to no time to learn my environment. I felt as though I was associated with a place I knew nothing to very little about. I also wanted to teach school and give back to the community quietly…and I did that. I also needed to change lives…and I did that.

At other times I didn’t know just what to say. For some reason I couldn’t sing it, play it, let alone write it. I simply couldn’t interpret it in anyway.

Still, at other times I wrote and recorded songs and put them on the shelf or under the mat to never be heard again. Sometimes it was because music was changing so very rapidly around me, as was the music business and I didn’t feel like I’d be accepted much anymore (who’d want to hear a piano when keyboards with all the fancy lights, sounds and buttons were the ‘it’ and ‘in’ thing?). Still at other times I felt like…ok, maybe this isn’t so bad after all…no music, no shows, no airports, no hotels, no interviews…no public life whatsoever. Maybe, just maybe, I’ll get used to the total freedom thing and chillin’ thing pretty soon.

Perhaps it could have been that sometimes I felt completely alone. Perhaps I felt betrayed by the business and abused by friends, and even the very people I employed for many years. Perhaps I didn’t pray hard enough? Perhaps I forgot to pray for me and my needs? Perhaps I should have said something more at the time or something less?

At times it could have been because almost perhaps, maybe I kinda fell in love…I guess… I think. Well, now that I’m thinking about it…I think I guessed that I thought I was thinking I was in love…kinda.

How about this…lots of times it was the key decision-makers that wanted to but didn’t know how to, or simply didn’t really have the power or last word. Still, if some did (have the power or the last word) it could have been simply that they didn’t have the balls to stretch out! Several times it was just a flat out, “No.” Or as one person told my Godmother, which brought her to tears, “Don’t give him anything, don’t give him any money or anything! Nothing! Let him work and struggle for it!”

Even a few times it was, “OK great! Hey, let’s do an Irish Folk album!!! Ha!”

Real talk! Perhaps my personality on stage overshadowed my personal quiet being. Maybe I was too shy off stage…and perhaps I still am. Maybe I just wasn’t talented enough — my own bass player had no issue saying this to other musicians around the city…even worse, musicians and singers in my band — or maybe, just maybe I was given too much of a gift and it intimidated people…that’s possible, very possible you know…it could happen.

At times depression set in and I felt that my contribution to New Orleans music, Louisiana music, and American Roots Music and the piano just didn’t really matter at all. After all, I’d remained pretty loyal to roots music when I could have completely turned away.

It could have been at times I felt very closed… and very close to the end…saddened, ridiculed, judged and quietly suicidal. Very suicidal. I’m sure lots of times it was because I felt like my gift and my artistic being didn’t really matter much to people and that I’ll share when the time permits.

It may have been that I stopped performing in public for some time and releasing music for the aforementioned reasons or even others unmentioned…good and bad…simple or complex…but it was never because within my heart I didn’t want to.

Enjoy.

– Davell

Track List

1. Creole Man (5:39)
2. River / White Socks and Drawers (feat. Donald Harrison, Jr., Dr. John, and Big Freedia the Queen Diva) (5:41)
3. Junco Partner Cud’in Joe (feat. Walter “Wolfman” Washington) (6:10)
4. The River of Dreams (feat. Donald Harrison, Jr.) (4:06)
5. Fire and Rain (feat. Nicholas Payton) (5:42)
6. Southern Nights / Many Rivers to Cross (5:02)
7. Don’t Ever Be Blue (feat. Steve Riley) (4:37)
8. Louisiana Sunday Afternoon (feat. Bobbi Humphrey) (5:06)
9. Southern Girl (4:32)
10. Southern Woman (Ain’t Nothin’ Like A) (4:12)
11. Stranger In My Own Home (feat. Nicholas Payton) (5:40)
12. Until I See You In A While (4:17)
13. Going Back to Louisiana (feat. Dr. John and the Davell Crawford Singers) (5:09)
14. Can’t Find My Way Home (4:51)
15. Ode to Louisiana (3:17)

Track Notes / Lyrics

1. Creole Man (5:39)

Songs are poems put to music. Creole Man was written as a poem and meant to be just that. The strangest thing is that as I was writing the poem, the melody came to me also. That’s the way I’ve always written songs, with words and music coming together, though this time, I tried to turn it off and just couldn’t! I really wanted a poem!!! Nothing else to it! Words, that’s all! A damn poem! But God gave Creole Man to me as both poem and song, and demanded it be used as both.

For as long as I can remember, all over the world people have asked me about Creole life. Just what does it mean to be Creole? Are you Black, Mixed, Cajun, African American, Indian, Spanish, French? What? Do you eat raccoons and alligators? Can you put a spell on somebody? To this very day I still get the question that everyone ought to know the answer to…can all ya’ll really cook? My answer to all Creole queries is Creole Man.

Creole Man is a song that boldly expresses just what I am made of – from head to toe…what all Louisiana Creoles are made of! And it is a song – an Anthem – that I am extremely proud of, as I am extremely proud of my heritage.”

Lyrics

I am the Creole man.

I make you sing and dance and waltz awhile

You dance to my melodies, sleep to my memory

I know you smile

I am the Creole man

I come from foreign lands to spread the news

I sing ‘till you’re ok… wish for you brighter days and play for you

I am the Creole man.

I come from foreign lands by boats and all

Mixed with the Kings and Queens of African royalty and Indian soil

I am the Creole man

the keeper of the flame and of your soul

I’ll have you in my heart, though we are miles apart and keep you whole

I hope you dance with me to a French melody and Indian drum

or Congo sacred praise… or second-line parade all for fun.

I am the Creole man (4x)

I am the Creole man

I come to you today with words of love

Just as my ancestors from Nova Scotia and Africa

I am the Creole man (4x)

I am the Creole man

I give to you my gifts…I give my hands

I am Creole man

I’m from the earth and land…

The Creole man

Personnel

Davell Crawford – Vocal, Piano, Hammond B-3, Keyboards

Mark Brooks – Bass

Joseph Dyson, Jr. – Drums

Bill Summers – Percussion

Norwood ‘Geechie’ Johnson – Bass Drum

Derwin ‘Big D’ Perkins – Lead Guitar

Bernard Grobman – Rhythm Guitar, Tremolo Guitar

Marlon Jordon – Trumpet

Clarence Johnson, III – Saxophones

Emmanuel Burke – Background Vocals

Shawn Hampton – Background Vocals

LaTasha S. Jordan – Background Vocals

2. River / White Socks and Drawers (feat. Donald Harrison, Jr., Dr. John, and Big Freedia the Queen Diva) (5:41)

I’ve got the best Godmother that anyone could ever ask for. Not much more to say here. It is what it is. She sang it – and because she’s for me, I thought, hell, I wanna sing it too!

Lyrics Excerpt

You know the spirit of the river

Ain’t gon’ neva lie

It’s gon’ be dere to show grandmother earth

How we live and how we die

It’s gonna show you da way

They can’t be no other way

Instructions for listening to River / White Socks & Drawers

1) Now turn the music way, way, way, way, waaaaay up.

2) Get up outta ya seat! Do it NOW!!! Hurry before the song is over!

3) Find YOUR groove. (If you’re near any potential groove partners – damn it – grab their *sses too)

4) Start dancin’ – Start groovin’…NOW…like you’re crazy!

5) Once the song is over – press repeat and start jammin’ again.

6) Lastly, you are instructed by me, Davell (and probably Roberta also), to like the song so much that you will now go to www.basinstreetrecords.com/davell-bonus-tracks/ and download the bonus track of ‘White Socks and Drawers’

Personnel

Davell Crawford – Vocal, Piano, Hammond B-3, Keyboard, Hand claps

Dr. John “The Night Tripper” – Vocal

Donald Harrison, Jr. – Saxophone

Big Freedia ‘The Queen Diva’ – Vocal Rap, Hand claps

Mark Brooks – Bass

Joseph Dyson, Jr. – Drums

Bill Summers – Percussion

Norwood ‘Geechie’ Johnson – Bass Drum

Bernard Grobman – Acoustic Guitar

Derwin ‘Big D’ Perkins – Electric Guitar

Marlon Jordan – Trumpet

Clarence Johnson, III – Saxophones

Background Vocals – Anthony Bailey, Shawn Hampton, LaTasha S. Jordan

Derron Cook – Hand claps

3. Junco Partner Cud’in Joe (feat. Walter “Wolfman” Washington) (6:10)

After years of requests from fans, I began to consider – then research the song, Junco Partner Cud’in Joe. While studying, I realized this song-story, spoke much more to me than a blues song about some strung out addict that just gets high because he knows no other way. In this song, I discovered a very true and most common story that needed some new attention…I just had to sing about whoever this guy was. He may have been my family member, my friend, the guy down the street – whoever. Though I couldn’t quite place him, and didn’t really want to specifically – I knew I knew him. I learned about his life of addiction and his attitude towards his addiction – but of most gravity and worth, his most sincere plea for Christ before his life ends. Wow!”

Personnel

Davell Crawford – Vocal, Piano, Hammond B-3, Keyboards

Walter ‘Wolfman’ Washington – Guitar

Mark Brooks – Bass

Joseph Dyson, Jr. – Drums

Bill Summers – Percussion

Detroit Brooks – Guitar

Trina Dyson – Vocal

4. The River of Dreams (feat. Donald Harrison, Jr.) (4:06)

One of my favorite songs – I was eighteen when Billy Joel released this song. In the process of recording this album, so many artists and their music came to mind – especially ones from my childhood and teenage years. During my youth, Billy Joel was a platinum selling artist and very active on radio, television and in print. He was absolutely everywhere and I couldn’t help but be influenced by his music. This song, and many others from his catalog, became part of the soundtrack of my life – and I never forgot or ignored them.

I hope my cover of this wonderful tune will allow some to reminisce, and others discover.

Personnel

Davell Crawford – Vocal, Piano, Keyboards

Donald Harrison – Saxophone

Mark Brooks – Bass

Joseph Dyson, Jr. – Drums

Bill Summers – Percussion

Derwin ‘Big D’ Perkins – Guitar

Emmanuel Burke – Background Vocals

Davell Crawford – Background Vocals

Shawn Hampton – Background Vocals

LaTasha S. Jordan – Background Vocals

Eric Pointdexter – Background Vocals

5. Fire and Rain (feat. Nicholas Payton) (5:42)

Ever since I can remember, this song has made me cry, and cry – and cry some more. Perhaps as a very young boy it was James Taylor’s calming voice (such like John Denver’s) that made me swell up with tears…I’m not sure.

After a while I learned that my cries birthed from this song were all for different reasons. I determined this song affected me differently at various times in my life. The line “when I couldn’t find a friend” was so very prevalent in my life while attending high school and pursuing my career as a professional musician. During my high school years I toured extensively and was often away from school for long periods of time. I simply did not connect with my schoolmates as I would have liked to – to be honest, though I may have been popular, I had little to no friends.

Anyway, at other times it was the line, “won’ t you look down on me Jesus… you’ve just got to see me through another day.”

Today, it is every single line of this song that makes me cry. I cry with tears of joy, sadness and sorrow. I only assume this song is just as personal for me now as it was when I was a kid and thereafter, a teenager. Today, I understand differently. I understand this song completely – but still, it lives with me by my own interpretation. One of the greatest songs ever written. And for me, and now, many others like me – what an old-new-New Orleans song!”

Personnel

Davell Crawford – Vocal, Piano, Keyboard

Nicholas Payton – Trumpet

Mark Brooks – Bass

Joe Dyson, Jr. – Drums

6. Southern Nights / Many Rivers to Cross (5:02)

“Southern Nights” had been on my radar to cover for years. I felt it just wasn’t the right time. For ‘My Gift To You’, I still had no intention of recording “Southern Nights.” One morning I walked into the studio and went straight to the piano – the same as I had done every morning. But this particular morning, something was different. Something was different about the atmosphere in the studio. Believe it or not, it transferred over to the piano. This day, the piano was perfect! It was tuned perfectly! I ordered the piano freshly tuned every morning before we started the session for the day but this particular morning, it felt more perfect than before – for my touch – and it played and sounded more perfect than any other piano I’d ever played. (What’s that about?)

It was the perfection of the piano and the atmosphere of the studio that helped capture one of those magical moments we all long for while creating – it lead to the dictation and interpretation of “Southern Nights” and “Many Rivers To Cross.”

Personnel

Davell Crawford – Piano

7. Don’t Ever Be Blue (feat. Steve Riley) (4:37)

At one of the lowest emotional times in my life, I wrote this song. I wanted to write a song documenting what I was going through; what I was fighting. I felt no matter the situation, it was my duty as an artist to document this part of my life through song, as heartfelt and honestly as I could. I wanted to create this song in the style of music that influenced me earliest as a child and remind listeners of this: While so many beautiful things can be birthed from one thing (in this instance, the color blue), let us not be fooled, and let us not forget how quickly the beautiful can become the ugly – the positive negative. Keep all other options open and never cease to explore them, and when you feel all is lost – gone, when you feel ‘blue’ – for whatever reason – never ever give up!

I dedicate this song to my Grandmother, Aunts, and Ms. Shirley too…they absolutely love this song. Oh, and Irma – of course you can sing it too!

Lyrics

Like the cool winds of March and the waters that flow from the fall

Like the cold winter’s night and the stars that light up the sky

It’s a blueberry field and the blue-jays that sing a song

It’s the prettiest color of all…

But it lives in my home

It’s often sweet and gentle like a breeze on the first day of May

Like a baby’s eyes full of joy contentment and play

It’s an old country morning when grandma is moaning her song

It’s the prettiest color of all…but it lives in my home

Don’t ever be blue

Don’t ever be blue

There’s a rainbow of colors awaiting right there before you

Just keep going on keep singing your song and doing the best you can do

Don’t ever be blue

Personnel

Davell Crawford – Vocals, Piano

Mark Brooks – Upright Bass

Joe Dyson, Jr. – Drums

Steve Riley – Accordion, Fiddle

8. Louisiana Sunday Afternoon (feat. Bobbi Humphrey) (5:06)

Diane Schuur – Ahh! I was twelve when Diane Schuur and Dave Grusin released this song – and I never forgot it. Dave Grusin, pure genius! Thanks for the music!

Personnel

Davell Crawford – Vocal, Piano, Hammond B-3, Keyboards

Bobbi Humphrey – Flute

Mark Brooks – Bass

Joseph Dyson, Jr. – Drums

Bill Summers – Percussion

Derwin ‘Big D’ Perkins – Guitar

Anthony Bailey – Background Vocals

Davell Crawford – Background Vocals

Shawn Hampton – Background Vocals

Milton Jackson – Background Vocals

LaTasha S. Jordan – Background Vocals

9. Southern Girl (4:32)

At the age of eleven I was asked to write a song for Frankie Beverly & Maze by one of the band members. April 5,1988, I wrote a song titled, ‘A Little Rain Must Fall’ – I demoed it and all, but never gave it to Maze or Frankie Beverly. McKinley ‘Bug’ Williams, a close life-long family friend and bandmate of Maze, never let me live it down that I refused to turn over my song to the group – especially after hearing me play it on my little keyboard. Despite how McKinley felt, I simply didn’t believe it was demoed good enough for me to share.

McKinley was a champion of my talent and gift. He stayed in touch throughout the years and encouraged me to keep playing live, writing, recording and releasing music. Later on, he asked me to cover some Maze tunes in my own way – and for years I promised that I would. Preparing for this recording, I knew hands down that I would make good on my promise to him and record a Maze song and ask him to play on it. With all of the pride he had in his heart, he was scheduled to appear on this record. McKinley ‘Bug’ Williams died on my birthday, September 3, 2011.

Personnel

Davell Crawford – Vocal, Piano, Hammond B-3, Keyboard

Donald Harrison, Jr. – Saxophone

Mark Brooks – Bass

Joseph Dyson, Jr. – Drums

Bill Summers – Percussion

Derwin “Big D” Perkins – Guitar

Davell Crawford – Vocal Solo, Background Vocals

10. Southern Woman (Ain’t Nothin’ Like A) (4:12)

Not complicated. I wrote this song to celebrate the virtue of the Southern Woman.

Lyrics

Ain’t nothin’ like a Southern woman,

Country woman

Sexy woman

Lovin’ woman

Pretty woman

Feel good woman

If you ain’t got a real good woman

Prissy woman

Fine ole woman

Like a wine

A takin’ care of business woman

Then get yo’self a damn good woman

Dancin’ woman

Ooh wee woman

Groovy woman

Sho’nuff shoutin’, churchy woman

Don’t wanna have no cryin’ woman

Tryin’ woman

Flyin’ woman

Whinin’ woman

Tear you down, “I got mine” woman

Been all around the world

I fancy life and the pretty girls

But still one thing I wanna find

A Southern woman, make her mine

A rock-star life is sho’nuff good

Got the wine and the women and the whiskey, fit me good

But still one thing I wanna find, yeah

A Southern woman, make her mine

Got her number on the airplane

Got a kiss when we hit the land

No matter how it felt that time

I need a southern woman, make her mine

Personnel

Davell Crawford – Vocal, Piano, Hammond B-3, Keyboard

Mark Brooks – Bass

Joseph Dyson, Jr. – Tambourine, Drums

Bill Summers – Percussion

Norwood ‘Geechie’ Johnson – Bass Drum

June Yamagishi – Lead Guitar

Marlon Jordan – Trumpet

Clarence Johnson, III – Saxophones

Anthony Bailey – Background Vocals

Shawn Hampton – Background Vocals

LaTasha S. Jordan – Background Vocals

11. Stranger In My Own Home (feat. Nicholas Payton) (5:40)

I wrote this song after Hurricane Katrina. I remember coming back to New Orleans and playing mostly fundraisers and a few regular gigs, all while sleeping in cars. Many nights I stayed up all night in restaurants. Some nights, in the French Quarter, I even walked from bar to bar from sun up to sun down, sun up to sun down and up again, looking for someone familiar, hoping someone would recognize me – would give me a place to stay for the night to stop feeling as if I were a total stranger in another stranger’s home.

Believe it or not, today, this is still how I feel in New Orleans…this is still my reality. The majority of my family and friends are gone from the city, and yes, I’m still traveling out of town to Baton Rouge or Lafayette just to sleep for a night. I drive back to New Orleans just about everyday when I am in Louisiana. I’ve struggled not to write this song for quite some time, all the while knowing sooner or later, it would be written.

Lyrics

And now, I walk the streets all alone

Familiar things are all gone…

is this new land my new home

And then, each passing day I knew so well now only greets me fare ye well

Goodbyes I don’t do very well

And now, the August rain I still recall

The constant waters, wind and all are ever present, ever strong

And then, before the changing of the tide

I knew my heart, I knew my mind

Now all is changed and I just cry

I am alone

I’ve made the quietness my new home

I’ve come accustomed to the loneliness, the bitterness and the peacefulness

Where has it gone?

The life I’ve known for so long

So now I’ll take the quietness and the sadness

I’m a stranger in my own home

Personnel

Davell Crawford – Vocals, Piano, Keyboards

Nicholas Payton – Trumpet

Michael Esnault – Conductor

Derwin ‘Big D’ Perkins – Lead Guitar, Bass

Joe Dyson, Jr. – Drums

Violins: Amy Thiaville, Burton Callahan, Zorica Dimova, Razvan Constantin, Judith Fitzpatrick, Kate Withrow, Elizabeth Overweg, Natalia Cascante

Violas: Bruce Owen, Lisa McGibney, Raul Gomez, Rafal Zyskowski

Cellos: Allen Nisbet, Dimitri Vychko

Bass: Yong Pan

French Horns: Mollie Pate, Joshua Paulus

Flute: Heather Zinninger

Clarinet: Rex Gregory

12. Until I See You In A While (4:17)

October of 2005 I was called to do a recording session in New York with my friend the late Marva Wright. Though I was a little reluctant to record after Katrina, I agreed to fly up and record with her. The day of the recording session was the first time I’d seen Marva since the beginning of July, earlier the same year. I called to invite Marva to a Sunday morning gospel brunch hours before the New York recording session. I wanted to sorta get us into a groove and prepare our spirits to record. She kept asking, “What are we going to do?” and my response was, “I don’t know.” After a while she stopped asking and told me that she wasn’t worried at all because she knew that whatever it was it would be just fine.

Well, in the 15-minute car ride to the studio I wrote “Until I See You In A While” for Marva and I to sing as a duet. Unfortunately, it never made the record. It never made the record because it was never recorded! When we arrived at the studio, I went straight to the piano with my notes, etc. for the song. I told Marva to listen while I’d sang her part. As soon as I starting playing the intro and sang the first line, Marva started crying. Marva cried and cried, and then cried some more. We stopped several times to try and gather our emotions but it just didn’t work. Each time Marva tried to sing the song, she started crying…she just couldn’t hold back. We never got through this song. Actually, Marva never really made it through any song that day. Instead, in my post-crying voice, I solemnly struggled through another of my songs, “Gather At The River.” Still today, when I hear “Gather At The River” I think of Marva and the song “Until I See You In A While.”

Lyrics

When I sing his song I think of the days that’s passed me by

The melodies and harmonies that made us laugh and cry

The songs we’ve sang, the times we’ve shared

Will never be forgot

Close your eyes and think of me until I see you in awhile

The times have changed our lives into gypsies

that care forgot

All we’ve got are sweet memories to keep us late at night

And though they’re miles between us

Just keep this on your mind

Close your eyes and just think of me until I see you in awhile

It won’t be long until I get home

Until we laugh and sing and play a brand new song

But until then when miles become just one mile

Keep this song until I see you in awhile

Keep this song until I see you in awhile

Keep this song until I see you in awhile

Personnel

Davell Crawford – Vocal, Piano

Derwin “Big D” Perkins – Acoustic Guitar

Mark Brooks – Bass

Joe Dyson, Jr. – Drums

13. Going Back to Louisiana (feat. Dr. John and the Davell Crawford Singers) (5:09)

I originally wrote and recorded this song six years ago as a serious foot stomping, square dancing, halfway mountain hillbilly, but Louisiana (Looziana) country song (if you can figure out just what that is) with banjos, guitars, fiddles, my background singers and all! But for this record, I wanted the song to stop in the two cities of Louisiana that have meant the most to me in my life, Lafayette and New Orleans…and what better people than Doc and Steve to help accomplish that! Also during its stop in New Orleans the song kinda wanted to visit a church!!! Ha! Go figure!

Lyrics

I’m going back to Louisiana…back to where I’m from and I won’t stop until I hear the rhythm of the drum The moonlit sky’s by the summer nights the life we live for fun I’m goin’ back to Louisiana…back to where I’m from

I’m going back to Louisiana…back to where I’m from to hear the guitar play and hear the church bells ring at dawn Life we live by the moonlit sky’s life we live for fun I’m goin’ back to Louisiana…back to where I’m from

Mississippi water, Louisiana mud…

Creole country life

Black man, white man, red man

we all together intertwined

all together intertwined

we all together intertwined

I’m going back to Louisiana…back to where I’m from

To see the Indian dance and hear the big chief beat the drum

The second-line be on the streets all day

The choir singing in a Gospel way

I’m going back to Louisiana back to where I’m from

Mississippi water, Louisiana mud…

Creole country life

Black man, white man, red man

we all together intertwined

Mississippi water, Louisiana mud…

Creole country life

Black man, white man, red man

we all together intertwined

all together intertwined

we all together intertwined

I’m going back

Back to Louisiana, back to where I’m from I’m going back (3x)

Back to Louisiana, back to where I’m from

You know dey got all l’em Mississippi water we all part a ‘dat da Louziana mud…

we all part a dat

Can you dig dat?

Cause we da Who Dat!

And we dat!

And you dat!

And if you don’t know dat…

WHAT DO YOU KNOW?

Cause, we all part of it

Cause we love it…and we love it

And can you dig it…can you dig it

Sho’ can you hear it…can you hear it

And we love it. Can you dig it? Can you hear it? (2x)

Personnel

Davell Crawford – Piano

Dr. John – Vocals

Steve Riley – Accordion, Fiddle

Mark Brooks – Bass

Joe Dyson, Jr. – Drums

The Davell Crawford Singers – Background Vocals: Valeria Maxwell, LaTasha S. Jordan, Shawn Hampton, Min. Jackie Tolbert, Veronica Downs-Dorsey. Additional singers: Eric Pointdexter, Emmanuel Burke.

14. Can’t Find My Way Home (4:51)

Jay Jay French of Twisted Sister asked me to learn this song for a side band we were putting together just for the hell of it. I’d heard the song before and liked it, but never really listened. Well, being a little pressured for the upcoming gig forced me to learn it. The song “Can’t Find My Way Home” did something to and for me – it began to take root, then sprout in and around my soul. So, today, I sing this song with my own interpretation of the lyrical meaning. I encourage you to do the same – listen, and interpret as you wish.

Personnel

Davell Crawford – Vocal, Piano, Hammond B-3, Keyboards

Mark Brooks – Bass

Joseph Dyson, Jr. – Drums

Bernard Grobman – Electric and Acoustic Slide Guitars

Anthony Bailey – Background Vocals

Davell Crawford – Background Vocals

Shawn Hampton – Background Vocals

LaTasha S. Jordan – Background Vocals

15. Ode to Louisiana (3:17)

I watched the movie Ray with Jamie Foxx in 2005 and was forever changed by the fact that Ray Charles was banned from performing in the state of Georgia because of his refusal to perform for a whites-only audience. Immediately the song “Georgia On My Mind,” which I’d been performing since my early teens, took on new meaning. Suddenly, I understood.

…Other arms reach out to me, other eyes smile tenderly,

still in peaceful dreams I see,

the road leads back to you.

After watching Ray, I couldn’t help singing the song differently. My fingers played the song differently – with more compassion and understanding. I suddenly felt Ray’s pain – Ray’s longing for acceptance in his home state of Georgia. My song “Ode to Louisiana” was written mostly out of the same feelings of pain, loneliness, and lack of appreciation in my own homeland while experiencing much acceptance in foreign lands. After all these years, my longing to be in Louisiana still remains. I just simply cannot get back. Ray Charles’s longing never stopped. He simply could not get back. For both of us, the pain never stopped… Our childhood memories never left us…. My allegiance to Louisiana and his allegiance to Georgia never wavered. I wrote this song as my gift to Louisiana, much as Ray’s “Georgia On My Mind” was his gift to Georgia. And as I’m sitting here writing these notes, something else hits me…how ironic it is that after Hurricane Katrina, the state of Georgia – the state that rejected Ray Charles – opened up its doors to me. I lived in Atlanta, Georgia for two years before moving to New York….

In tribute to all who love Louisiana, especially those away and still misplaced by the effects of Hurricane Katrina – Ode to Louisiana.

Lyrics

Louisiana, I love you

for all you’ve given to me

I promise never forget you

as I travel o’ve the stormy sea

There’s no one more beautiful to me

green pastures and blue skies and all

I’ll travel the whole wide world over

and sing of your beauty and love

I’ll never roam too far away

and at the close of the day

remember me please…oh pray for me

when I’m three thousand miles away

Louisiana, I love you

for keeping me so long

I promise never forget you

and I promise to someday come home (3x)

Personnel

Davell Crawford – Vocals, Piano

Michael Esnault – Conductor

Mark Brooks – Bass

Joe Dyson, Jr. – Drums

Violins: Amy Thiaville, Burton Callahan, Zorica Dimova, Razvan Constantin, Judith Fitzpatrick, Kate Withrow, Elizabeth Overweg, Natalia Cascante

Violas: Bruce Owen, Lisa McGibney, Raul Gomez, Rafal Zyskowski

Cellos: Allen Nisbet, Dimitri Vychko

Bass: Yong Pan

French Horns: Mollie Pate, Joshua Paulus

Flute: Heather Zinninger

Clarinet: Rex Gregory

Credits

Conceptualized, Written, Arranged, Produced and Purr-formed by: Davell Crawford for Soulspel Music

Executive Producer: Mark Samuels

Recorded October 2011 – August 4, 2012 at The Music Shed, New Orleans, LA, Fitchfield Studios, New Orleans, LA and Dockside Studio, Maurice, LA

Engineered By: David Farrell
Mastering: Vlado Meller, Masterdisk, NYC

Dedicated to the memory of Minister David Cole, lll

Graphic design and manufacturing: Diana Thornton, www.crescentmusic.com

 

Thank You

Thanks to everyone and a special thanks to everyone else.

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