Recently making a national splash with his success on The Voice, Joshua Davis is no stranger to the Ferdinand Folk Festival—in the inaugural year (2010), he accompanied Rachael Davis. Whether speaking or singing, the voice of Davis is a disarming instrument: weathered and warm, as capable of conjuring confessional intimacy on a global stage as it is of making a small room, well off the beaten path, resonant with startling urgency and power. Couple it with an earnest poetic sensibility, a boundless work ethic, and an uncanny gift for connecting with audiences spanning generations, and it’s no wonder that Davis is now poised at the brink of the sort of widespread recognition that typically passes right over such a humble troubadour.
Over the past fifteen years, Michigan-based Davis has explored the common thread connecting folk, blues, jazz, ragtime, and country forms – discovering his personal perspective as a composer in the process. “My sound is rooted in the folk tradition . . .” says Davis. “Terms like Americana, roots rock, and heartland rock come up . . . . I’m not a purist: I play with that American folk lineage . . . .” His versatility and musical curiosity have resulted in a diversity of collaborations from his five albums with roots-rock group Steppin’ In It to the vintage swing styles on the album he recorded with Shout Sister Shout.
But Davis’s sensibility shines brightest on his trio of solo albums, each a thoughtful dispatch on life, love, change, and growth, culminating with 2013’s A Miracle of Birds—which was inspired by a life-changing voyage to the Middle East in the Palestinian West Bank to raise money and awareness for fair-trade olive farming communities in Palestine’s West Bank. Contrasting his identity as an American Jew with the struggles he observed in the Middle East, Davis crafted a suite of songs that works not only as a traditional album, but as a provocative and dynamic concert program that he has presented in schools, clubs, and theaters.
Davis almost didn’t audition when the popular NBC musical showcase The Voice called. “I’d never even seen the show. Looking at music in a competitive way is totally against the way I was raised,” he says. “Collaboration is what it’s about. Music brings people together. So the competitive aspect of it was really foreign--to be judged like that.” From his first performance, Davis triumphed, and over the course of the season, his rootsy, sincere approach emerged as a refreshing alternative, propelling him all the way to the finals.