ROY DAVIS JR. with FELIX & GANI and TEELOO'S KITCHEN at the Crystal Room (567 Queen West), Friday (April 22). $10 advance, $15 before midnight, $20 after. www.milkaudio.com. Rating: NNNNN
For a man who was on the verge of giving up production not that long ago, Roy Davis Jr. has remained surprisingly prolific. By last count, he's had two full-length albums out within the last year, and there's been a steady stream of remixes and singles since he moved to L.A. from Chicago about two years ago.
"After my mom passed away, I didn't really want to make any more music," Davis admits from Paris as he prepares for a gig. "I had tons of songs already recorded, so I kept putting stuff out, but then after a while I started getting ideas again, and now I have two more albums recorded and ready to go. These laptops really come in handy."
The most recent album, Chicago Forever, shows a revitalized Davis writing stronger hooks than he has for years, and a tighter, more focused production style. He's still on that slightly sleepy neo-soul deep house tip and shows no signs of jumping ship for the acid-electro angle like others in the genre, despite the fact that he has a good pedigree in that sound - he started his career as a member of acid house pioneers Phuture.
"When I DJ, I'll still play some of those acid tracks, but I was just a kid when we were making those - I was just playing with whoever wanted me. At the time when I was working with DJ Pierre (Phuture), I was also working with Marshall Jefferson, but the Phuture tracks came out first, so that's what people knew me for first.
"I feel more comfortable with the soul side of things - I can express myself better. I don't worry too much about what's cool. I just try to be free and open, because that's what made all those classic records what they are."
There's definitely a reverence for the early classics of underground dance music in his production style these days, but that respect is for an era that many house heads who came through the rave scene might not even recognize as house. Davis has found a way to reach out to the American urban market, where there's a whole generation of listeners who don't hear how house is connected to hiphop and R&B, and who may have discounted it for its connection to rave.