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Critic's Choice

A long-winded Southern degenerate who can't catch a commercial break, John William Davis should be a household name in Colorado by now. Instead, after years of toiling as an underground folk phenom and releasing the critically acclaimed Dreams of the Lost Tribe, Davis has decided to return to his native Georgia in pursuit of greener pastures. But before fetching up his musket in the name of Dixie, this criminally clever tunesmith and former Shakespeare professor is slated for a pair of swan songs: On Thursday, May 19, he'll perform at Oskar Blues in Lyons, and on Friday, May 20, he'll play at Swallow Hill, where he studied under Mary Flower (who recently relocated to Portland, Oregon) and won the folk center's 2002 songwriter competition. Proficient in jazz, ragtime, deep-bottomed blues, Appalachian and Tin Pan Alley stylings, Davis spins humorous and homey tales that recall Randy Newman, Leon Redbone and early Tom Waits. On his recently completed second full-length, Revelation Land, he broadens his scope as a cultural satirist to take on the Bible, Reconstruction, big business, Waffle House connoisseurs and virtual Christmas. Davis, who will be joined for his last hurrah by bassist Sean Kelly, violinist Julia Hays and mandolin player Tony Oswald, might be bidding the Front Range adieu, but he's leaving a colorful legacy behind. Johnny, we hardly knew ye.