Central Lakes Community Performing Arts Center director Patrick Spradlin remembers the bitter cold of last winter, and he’s got the perfect solution for the coming arctic blasts. “What better way to spend a frigid January afternoon or evening than listening to hot blues and jazz?” he asks. To do just that, he’s presenting Minneapolis sensations Davina and the Vagabonds for two shows on Saturday, January 6 in the Chalberg Theatre on the Brainerd campus. Show times are 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
“This is the third occasion we’ve presented Davina,” Spradlin notes. “She and the band have developed a real following here in Brainerd. We sell her shows out every time.“
For those who haven’t seen the group, Spradlin refers to another source. “The best description I’ve heard about this band was from Jon Bream of the Star Tribune. It was this: ‘Davina Sowers Lozier sounds like the daughter of Leon Redbone and Betty Boop trained on piano by Randy Newman.’ That just about says it all.”
Davina Sowers and the Vagabonds (DATV) have created a stir on the national blues scene with their high-energy live shows, sharp-dressed professionalism, and Sowers’ commanding stage presence. With influences ranging from Fats Domino and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band to Aretha Franklin and Tom Waits, the band is converting audiences one show at a time, from Vancouver to Miami and across Europe.
So much more than just a blues act, DATV’s shows are filled with New Orleans charm, Memphis soul swagger, dark theatrical moments that evoke Kurt Weill, and tender gospel passages. Davina’s voice and stage presence defy category in a different way. Davina has been compared to Etta James, Amy Winehouse, Janis Joplin, Billie Holiday and Betty Boop, but comparisons don’t suffice: Sowers is a true original.
Something unique to this “blues” project is the instrumentation. This rollicking quintet is held together by Sowers’ keyboard playing, with acoustic bass, drums, and a spicy trumpet and trombone horn section. The group’s focused, clean sound and emphasis on acoustic instruments is novel to both blues and jazz worlds, and sets the show closer to New Orleans than to Chicago. This has set the Vagabonds apart at blues festivals in Thunder Bay, Ontario, Sighisoara, Romania, Sierre, Switzerland, Kemi, Finland, and 2012’s New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, and Monterey Jazz Festival 2013 & 2014.
Davina, a classically-trained pianist, has years of experience in piano performance. She and her band made a big splash at Duluth’s Bayfront Blues Festival in 2006 to2008, having the highest sales in CDs all three years. She has been called the ‘hardest working blues woman in frigid Minnesota.’ “Two things remain consistent in all her shows: her throaty, but cushiony voice, which has a sort of hard mattress comfort to it that’s part Bonnie Raitt, part Etta James and a little Amy Winehouse; and her band’s rollicking New Orleans flavor, driven home by dueling horn players and a bayou thick standup bass,” notes Chris Riemenschneider of the Star Tribune.
Tickets for Davina and the Vagabonds are available from the CLC Theatre Box Office at (218) 855-8199, or online at www.clcperformingarts.com.
“This girl is something special and her band is top notch. She just simply sits down at the piano and totally takes over the room,” notes Fizz Kizer of The Honkytonk Cafe in Wisconsin.
The show is sponsored by Birchwood Therapy Services and Prairie Bay Grill and Catering. The entire CLC Performing Arts Center season is made possible in part by an operating grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund.