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Guy Davis: The Language of the Blues

To Guy Davis, the stories behind Southern blues are as important as the familiar music that defines the genre. His new CD, Skunkmello is full of legendary tales, old and new.

Davis is the son of the great actors Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee. He says his blues music is inspired by the Southern speech of his grandmother.

"What draws me into the blues, I think, is the music not only of the instruments but the music of the language," Davis says.

Guy Davis once played the title in the off-Broadway play Robert Johnson: Trick the Devil about the famous bluesman who, legend has it, made a pact with the devil. "I think that my Dad might agree that there might not be a black man in America who, at some time or other, hadn't sold his soul to the devil…" Davis says.

"The black man has been catching hell all through slave times and since," he says. "And I think we sort of have a personal relationship with the devil and God, you know, on a name kind of basis."

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Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.