Nathan Davis Still Lives (2011) – By Josh Samford

Musical documentaries are usually reserved for those who have proven themselves on a large scale. Certainly I would think that our audience would be most accustomed to that type of movie, the kind that focuses on Grammy nominated artists who have garnered fans across the globe. However, occasionally you’ll run into projects that cover slightly more obscure subject matter and this is usually the much more intriguing projects since they introduce us, the audience, to an artist and a world we are not accustomed to. Nathan Davis Still Lives shows us both an artist that we as an audience likely aren’t familiar with, but also a different world and culture that might not be tangible for those of us not based around the North Carolina area. Although these film-types can more or less usually turn out to be the same thing over and over again, the devotion and love shown for this obscure figure within this thriving music scene paints a touching and fantastical vision that may suck in an entirely new audience for the musician.

Nathan Davis Still Lives is a documentary that presents us the story of young Nathan Davis who at times struggles as a folk/blues singer but for who music always came first. Starting off in his earliest days where he found himself at odds in the Christian private school that he attended for high school, Nathan Davis proved to be a music lover who refused to bend to anyone’s whim. When he finally left the school he decided to devote himself entirely to music. Starting off playing at open-mic venues within the Raleigh music scene, Davis quickly escalated his career into a full blown cult following. However, the young star’s meteoric rise would come crashing down like so many other greats before his time, with his untimely early death. Yet, his music continues to live on and endure, as this film proves a testament to.

What I find to be most interesting about the feature, aside from Nathan Davis and his music of course, is the culture that is presented within the film surrounding this Raleigh bar scene where Davis sews his musical oats. For me it proved to be the major key in being absorbed into the film. The filmmakers introduce us to both it and Nathan early on, and we see how this sub-culture ultimately sort of flew behind the Nathan Davis banner. From one bar to the next, one friend to the next, Nathan Davis left an indelible mark within this group of aspiring musicians, bands and entertainers. This music-town, that I didn’t even realize had such a focal point of musical energy, all felt a strong kinship to the young entertainer and it is their love and fond remembrances that ultimately suck the viewer into this project.

With many musicians telling the story of this one particular artist, we get a very different and succinct look at what made Nathan Davis such a tremendous talent. The young artist, whose music seemed to cross genres but mainly focused on acoustic performances that were tinged with a love for the Blues, is shown during live performances where he gets to prove just how talented a guitar player he really was. His intense song-writing speeds are also shown, having written numerous songs throughout his very short career. With great songs and a quirky personality, the audience is really left with a great impression of just who this artist was and it seems such a shame that he wasn’t able to contribute more.

Overall, you can say that this sort of project has been done before, but the love and enthusiasm for Nathan Davis is where the real soul of the project it. It’s the sort of documentary that once you start, you don’t want to let go. There is a culture and group of people caught on video here and it is certainly something you in the audience will want to share. Whether you like the music or not, this is a documentary that will speak to a vast audience. Definitely check it out if you have some time. You can read more about it at the official website at: