SINGLE REVIEW: Billy Davis – ‘Ball and Chain’

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After the breakout success of their last single, ‘No Longer Lovers’, Billy Davis has returned with ‘Ball and Chain’, another track from their upcoming album. This Melbourne-based keyboardist and composer makes the kind of music you want to groove to, with an eclectic mix of gospel, R&B, soul and funk infused in each track. Billy Davis works with an ensemble of up to 11 musicians, creating a varied soundscape and music bursting with energy.

‘Ball and Chain’ hits you at first with some spacey vocals from Khiarra Villalobos, who glides effortlessly over the backdrop of a hazy synth. Then Billy Davis’ MC Jordan Dennis takes over with some tight bars about the struggles of maintaining a relationship. His introspective lyrics are well-crafted, but just as importantly he switches up his flow regularly, so his words aren’t lost over the complexity of the beat. The instrumental nicely blends a melodic synth and keys with jazzy horns, evoking the classic work of legendary hip-hop producers J Dilla and Pete Rock.

The song remains busy throughout, ending with a chaotic piano solo which encapsulates the emotional turbulence detailed in the verses. It is an ambitious track, juggling multiple elements simultaneously, but Billy Davis and his talented ensemble brings it all together fluently.

If you dig modern neo-soul acts like The Internet and the Robert Glasper Experiment, or even old school jazz-rap groups like The Pharcyde, Billy Davis is definitely an artist worth checking out. Known for their high-octane live performances, you can catch Billy Davis and his band The Good Lords, for their ‘Ball and Chain’ release show on Friday May 12 at The Gasometer Hotel.

Words by Luke Michael.