Joshua Davis showcased new songs and old favorites at Sonic Lunch


Joshua Davis at Sonic Lunch

Photo by [|Leisa Thompson], courtesy of the Bank of Ann Arbor and Sonic Lunch. See the full gallery […].

[|Joshua Davis] keeps getting better.

Thursday’s [|Sonic Lunch] show by the longtime Michigan singer-songwriter mixed some old favorites, some cool covers, and some songs from his upcoming album, The Way Back Home. And while the music was great throughout, the new songs were the ones that really stood out.

The musicianship was impeccable. Davis’ guitar playing has become more ambitious over the years, and he handled several intricate solos with aplomb. And, following his successful run on The Voice a couple years back, his singing seems deeper and richer.

On Thursday, Davis’ band consisted of percussionist Michael Shimmin, a “one-man rhythm section,” on cajón, and Mike Lynch on keyboards. The talented musicians got to showcase their chops during the course of the show, as did local harmonica ace Peter Madcat Ruth, guesting on two songs.

Both the covers and the old favorites demonstrated Davis’ ability to shift seamlessly from uplifting ballads to good-time party music to songs of social conscience. He drew from the catalog of his former band Steppin’ in It for the raucous “Give My Regards to Miss Moline” and the wistful “Dustbowl Overtures,” while also bringing “The Market,” one of the songs that grew out of a charity-focused trip to the Middle East, from his earlier solo career.

Covers included terrific, just-for-fun takes on “Down South in New Orleans” and “Get Back,” but ventured into more serious territory with the old union standard “I Don’t Want Your Millions, Mister.”

That was all great. But three newer songs -- all included on The Way Back Home, and all about love, in one way or another -- demonstrate major steps forward in Davis’ already strong songwriting. “The Little Things,” which opened the show, combines everyday images into a collage of something much bigger -- “a transcendental ending to a perfectly ordinary day,” as the song says -- over a memorable melody line.

The second song of the set, “Just Getting By,” wonders, “Is there something that we lost along the way?” -- and ultimately realizes, “You can’t go back the way you came. You’ve got to find your love along the way.” “Always Gonna Be Here” sweetly and creatively promises a lifetime together, with seemingly tossed-off lines like “My love is like the sun, my love is like the moon / My love will stick with you like a Beach Boys tune.”

Davis closed the show with Tom Waits’ “Come On Up to the House,” calling it “one of my very favorite tunes.” The appreciative crowd likely wished it was a real invitation and that the party could have kept on going.

Bob Needham is a freelance writer and the former arts & entertainment editor of The Ann Arbor News and

[|Joshua Davis plays The Ark] on Nov. 11. Sonic Lunch, sponsored by Bank of Ann Arbor, wraps up its 2017 season at noon Aug. 31 at Liberty Plaza, at the corner of Liberty and Division streets in Ann Arbor, with a performance by [|Joe Hertler & The Rainbow Seekers].