Bluesman Morgan Davis digs the East Coast

According to Google maps, the distance between Halifax and Moncton measures approximately 260 kilometres. It is not an insurmountable distance by any means.

But when you’re Morgan Davis, a Nova Scotia bluesman who, at age 64 just returned from a two and a half month tour of Europe, the United States and Canada, driving those 260 clicks can be a little more of a challenge.

With 42 years of experience behind him and many more to come, Davis tours so much for a simple reason: it is in his blood. But it is also thanks to his fans that have gravitated towards his unique style of country blues.

In what he estimates will be his first performance in Moncton in almost a decade, Morgan Davis will be taking to the stage at Plan B Lounge Saturday evening.

“I think that one of the last shows I would have played in Moncton would have been at Au Deuxieme or at the Angry Irishman,” Davis begins, giving some perspective to long-time Metro residents on exactly how long it has been since he has performed in the Hub City.

As an experienced touring musician and the writer behind the Colin James’ hit Why You’d Lie?, Davis knows all too well that the April-to-November window for touring North America via truck is all too short, hence his marathon outings such as the one he just returned home from.

“I have always loved traveling and going to new places. I know every tree on Highway 401 between Windsor and Quebec City and it is for reasons like that that I tend to stick to the back roads. You have to enjoy yourself and pace yourself while you’re out there,” he said, alluding to the fact that the travel aspect of being on tour can sometimes be mind-numbing when you’re a one-man show.

While playing the blues suits Davis, he acknowledges that he more or less stumbled into the profession. Born in Detroit, Davis was living in California when he was 16 years old, soaking in the anti-war movement of the late ’60s, his passion fueled by the likes of Bob Dylan and others. In 1968, at the age of 20, Davis moved to Toronto, brought north by the Vietnam War.

“Vietnam is definitely what brought me to Canada,” he explains. “I was very heavily involved in the anti-war movement in the States and ultimately had to look at the alternatives of what I could do with my life. I came to Canada and just fell into knowing some musicians. I got a gig at a fish and chips shop and that is really what got the ball rolling for me.

“It was such an exciting time to be in the city with Neil Young, Joni Mitchell and Gordon Lightfoot leading the pack. You had guys like Muddy Waters playing the Colonial Tavern; the city was buzzing with such great music. The quality of the musicians that you could hear in the clubs in those days was just so incredible.”

With eight records, numerous Maple Blues Awards and a Juno Award to his credit, Davis is a celebrated musician who takes nothing for granted. As he puts it, he could easily be digging ditches for a living, and while he admits that he is not getting rich from playing the blues, having an enjoyable quality of life is something that is important to him.

It is this desire to live a happy life that brought Davis to call Nova Scotia his home approximately 11 years ago. While he is grateful for the opportunities that living in Toronto had afforded him, the pace and quality of life in Atlantic Canada mattered more to him as he grew older.

“In some ways, I think that Toronto outgrew itself and that is a big part of what appealed to me about living on the East Coast,” he says. “You can breathe out here and the vibe is completely different than what you’d see in Toronto. Plus, the people are just so incredibly nice in the Maritimes. I consider it to be a good place to call home.”

Article published in July 20, 2012 edition of the Times & Transcript