By Elizabeth Ann Foster
Catching up with Mary Bridget Davies
Mary Bridget Davies has her hands full these days. She confirms to her toddler Myles that he indeed sees a bee as she prepares to perform her show A Night With Janis Joplin playing at the Zach Theater in Austin. A busy artist and mother, Davies takes time out to be interviewed. She has only two hands after all.
Stay With Me: The Reimaged Songs of Jerry Ragovoy (1930-2011) is her latest recording and is dedicated to her beloved sister Christine who left us well before her time. The album is due to be released 3/20/2020 and features two never recorded songs by Ragovoy. He had a string of hits including Janis Joplin’s “Piece Of My Heart,” “Cry Baby,” “Try, Just A Little Bit Harder,” and “Time Is on My Side,” made famous by The Rolling Stones. Front Row Center will be reviewing the Album so more to come on Stay With Me when the embargo is lifted.
Listening to or better yet experiencing Davis’ winsome canticle, Stay With Me Baby, one can close their eyes and drift back to Woodstock, where with lit candles in hand, the audience sways together before the stage where Janis Joplin is moving, singing, jammin’, and groovin’. Whispering along, praying, slowly dancing, nodding and sighing in agreement. Davies intense personal musical interaction with lead guitarist Ben Nieves gliding over Chris Hanna’s delicious Hammond B3 sound is excruciatingly emotional and pensive. Right on!
Davies was nominated for a Tony Award for her portrayal of Janis Joplin in Love, Janis. Many fans first learned of Davies in this hit musical that presented verbatim Joplin’s letters to her family and friends, hence the title to the play, the formal closing of a letter and Joplin’s ascendance and tragedy. When producer TJ Armand approached Davies with the project of recording Stay With Me she was delighted. Many project ideas had come up after her years of portraying Joplin, but none came to fruition. When Armand and Ragovoy’s widow Bev decided to bring rare and never released songs from his catalog, Davies was the obvious choice.
Davies wanted to make the songs more inclusive so that nobody was left out. Making the track pronouns gender neutral she has successfully altered the lyrics to speak to everyone who has loved and felt loss. She consulted with Ragovoy’s widow and got approval.
“Joplin speaks to the many internal and external pressures faced by woman across the world,” says Davies. It is hard not to feel Joplin’s presence in the words to these songs that Ragovoy captured so well.
During the recording of her most recent album Davies struggled with one of the songs Master of Disguise. First unhappy with it, she finally “felt it.” The song was completed in one take. This is one of the soundtracks that comes to mind when she thinks of Christine and what Davies calls “the stigma around mental health.” Davies was unaware that shortly after the album completion she would lose her sister.
Davies is hoping to bring awareness to the mental health crisis in our country. Starting a dialogue about it is the first step according to Davies to “make sanity of it all.” She is determined to bring it into the open, to process not only her emotions but those of our greater community. As hard as it is to live through it, Davies says it is important to discuss things openly.
Stay With Me: The Reimaged Songs of Jerry Ragovay – Mary Bridget Davies
Album producer TJ Armand
Musicians on the album include Ben Nieves (guitar), Alfredo Guerrieri (bass), Jim Wall (drums), Chris Hanna (keyboard) and was recorded and mixed by Curtis Leonard and Jim Wall at Blue Buddha Music Studios and Play Room Audio (Cleveland, OH). The album was mastered by Oscar Zambrano at Zampol Productions (New York, NY).
Broadway Records will release the studio album, digitally and in stores, on Friday, March 20, 2020. The album is currently available for pre-order at www.BroadwayRecords.com.
Mary Bridget Davies will launch a national tour promoting the album (dates and venues to be announced), starting with an appearance at The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on March 18th in support of the album release.