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The Arts
01.23.08

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Winged Migration: Paul M. Davis, formerly of Santa Cruz, journeys from his new home in Chicago for a Saturday show at the Poet.

Hometown Hootenanny

Hayseed punk and former Mule Train member Paul M. Davis returns to Santa Cruz for a show at the Poet.

By Traci Hukill


Is it unethical for an editor to promote the artistic work of a freelance writer who never misses a deadline? Perhaps, since consistent nonflakery pretty much catapults freelance writers to favored status in the eyes of those condemned to rustle words for a living. So sue me. There are plenty of objectively good reasons to go see country punk and Metro Santa Cruz contributor Paul M. Davis when he comes to town this weekend for a gig at the Poet and Patriot with soulful Santa Cruz clodhoppers Mylo Jenkins and, just maybe, a special secret guest.

Regulars at Caffe Pergolesi and hipsters-about-town will recognize Davis as an espresso slinger and professional nice guy with a sonorous baritone and enviable vocabulary. A certain contingent will also recognize him as part of the well-loved band Mule Train, which featured Devil Makes Three banjoist Cooper McBean, drummer Kevin Rainsberry and bassist Esteban Perez (now of Mylo Jenkins) over its four-year lifespan. Davis moved to Chicago for love in 2006, so now he's on his own, musically speaking, but he's still managing to crank out songs as he works his way up to releasing Gentleman Caller on his own Warning Sign Records label. He has some help from a Yamaha guitar purchased at Costco by his folks the Christmas he was 18. And he still records with McBean.

The new songs are marked by the same manic hayseed energy and minor-chord progressions that fans associate with Mule Train and The Devil Makes Three, but Davis has carved out his own dark little niche; his songs are distinctly, unapologetically political in a way that is all him. One of his favorite new offerings, which he describes as a "gypsy punk polemic against war," is "Bury the Bones;" the lyrics are the stuff of nightmares set to sort of a demented barn-dance fugue: "It goes round and around and around and around/ 'til you can't hear the screams or the awful sounds/ of kin ripped apart or the cracks of their hearts/ we bathe in their wounds and call it our art." His "Tickertape Parade" slams war profiteering and, it seems, the whole post-industrial economy: "A tickertape parade is marching/ Ripped-up shreds of ill-earned funds/ No precious metals no true callings/ Just records and calculated sums."

It's what you might expect from a renaissance guy with a punk sensibility. (More of that is available online at www.isgreaterthan.net and www.paulmdavis.com.) Whether he's performing, yakking on the phone or tapping away at one of his many writing projects, Davis always has something interesting to say. And that's rare enough to deserve notice.


PAUL M. DAVIS AND MYLO JENKINS Saturday, Jan. 26, at 9pm at the Poet and Patriot, 320 Cedar St., Santa Cruz. Admission is free.


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