Skip to main content
Photo by Stephen Done

Photo by Stephen Done

Davey was the perfect bass player for The Imposters, as the group came into existence during the making of When I Was Cruel — a record initially motivated by toy drum machines, until I accepted that the songs would be better realized by a new combination of humans. Davey could do everything we needed. He could lay it down hard, he could lay out when it was necessary, and he could invent with the best of them.

I think that it would have been impossible for Davey (or anyone else) to enter into an alliance with three musicians who had played together for the best part of 40 years, had the three of us remained static in our conception of melody, harmony, or rhythm. We sense music differently than we did in our 20s and play songs that call for far more variation of dynamic range and nuance. In terms of the groove, I could sense the things that Davey took from lessons with the likes of Chuck Rainey. They have become more and more evident as The Imposters developed their own recording and performance vibe.

Young groups are often insecure, wildly competitive, and confrontational; they flourish by taking unconventional roles. For example, the “rhythm section” of the Attractions was frequently Pete Thomas’ drums and my rhythm guitar, while the other two members played inventive counterpoint or melodic detail in support of my vocal. For our Imposters records, Davey brings his extensive studio experience in a rhythm-section team with Pete Thomas along with all his other recordings, from the Faragher Brothers Band as a teenager right through his time with Cracker, decoding then-current cues to his work on Johnny Halliday’s last sessions. He plays with a sense of swing that I had not enjoyed since the My Aim Is True sessions, which were more restrained and served by the groovy bass playing of Clover’s John Ciambotti, before some magic potion made me and the Attractions cut all that frantic new-wave music.

Of course, there are some excellent bass parts on those early records, and Davey has respect for that, but also the respect for himself — so he retains the essential motifs and still plays the song as he feels it. Between 1985 and 1993, I recorded or performed with Jerry Scheff, T-Bone Wolk, Nick Lowe, Paul McCartney, and Ray Brown. That’s a lot a great bass players, and when required, Davey has taken the blueprint of those recordings and made them his own, just as surely has he has done with Bruce Thomas’ parts from the Attractions’ early recordings.

Since 2002, we’ve covered a lot of miles — recording in Mississippi, in New Orleans with Allen Toussaint, and in the best recording rooms in Los Angeles. Which brings to mind Davey’s other main contribution as a harmony vocalist: He told me that his harmonic sense came from singing with his older brothers and having to grab hold of the one interval that no one covered. With few notable exceptions, I had always dubbed all of the background [vocal] parts on my records since 1978. This sometimes meant allowing for the absence of those parts in live performance. Truthfully, some songs never could be arranged to good effect without other voices, and those tunes fell by the wayside. Once I was working with Davey, I could count on having a close high-harmony singer, and I swear sometimes he had some crazy tonal trickery that made it seem as if there was more than one of him singing on a chorus.

When we came to revisit the most eccentric vocal arrangements for the Imperial Bedroom & Other Chambers Tour, we enlisted the help of the singers Kitten Kuroi and Brianna Lee, and Davey’s other talent as a vocal arranger came into play, as he was able to work with Kitten and Brianna to distill these tracked blueprints into viable three- or even four-part live arrangements. Music that had originally seemed too complex to enjoy in performance became exciting to play, and for our current tour, Just Trust, we are casting the net wider and hoping to surprise again with unheard songs, just as we celebrate the tunes that have stuck in the heart or memory for 40 or more years to earn their place in the set.

Davey’s highly attuned ear, both as a bass player and as vocalist, is as important as the invention of Steve Nieve, the drive of Pete Thomas, or that fact that I've written a few good tunes that I can enjoy singing with Kitten and Briana at my side in the finale. You want to work with people that you want to spend your precious time with, and the longer The Imposters continue, the more I value the friendship and care between us all, as much as the musical adventure we get to share.