Multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, vocalist and producer Aaron Davis has spent half of his life in Kentucky, the latter half in Wyoming, and another lifetime carving out a humble existence as an independent recording and touring artist. Chiefly known as co-founder of longtime alt-folk/country-blues band Screen Door Porch and in recent years, the eclectic solo ramblings and the accompanying project Aaron Davis & the Mystery Machine, he’s also a studio engineer-producer-session player at his own Three Hearted Recording Studio in Hoback, Wyoming.
Aaron works the lesser-worn corners of the American musical fabric through an unconventional lens. Slide banjo? A detuned guitar made of metal? Unorthodox fingerstyle with “a particularly interesting approach that mixes poetry, groove and roughness” (Lonestar Time)? You bet. From “searing slide guitar” (Country Weekly) echoing gritty Southern blues à la Duane Allman, to a patchwork of story folk and acoustic roots, pensive alt-country, and improvisational 70s-influenced rock, Davis has been described as a “truly phenomenal songwriter” (Americana UK) with “the lyrical prowess of Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy and edginess of a weathered bluesman” (Buckrail).
The range of Aaron’s original material has been chronicled across nine albums with four different bands amongst solo ventures. He was awarded a Performing Arts Music Fellowship from the National Endowment of the Arts and Wyoming Arts Council in 2021—“a merit-based honor of excellence in an artist’s field.” His latest solo album, The Meander, billows and breathes with both minimalist compositions and ensemble intricacy, showcasing over a dozen regional musicians that Davis has toured and collaborated with. Self-taught on electric, acoustic & resonator guitars, banjo, lap steel, harmonica, mandolin, pedal steel, bass, and cigar box percussion, his solo sets open the door for witty storytelling and depictions of the colorful characters in his songs. His magnetism to music is fueled by a carpe diem restlessness to create original works, and the personal evolution plays on with multiple releases on deck for 2021.
Alongside his wife and musical partner Seadar Rose, Davis’ decade with Screen Door Porch was a prolific and significant era of his career. The band became a national touring act, establishing their “grooving electrified porch music” as a household name in the region before announcing a hiatus in 2017. They released four studio albums—Screen Door Porch (2010), The Fate & The Fruit (2012), Modern Settler (2015), and Pay it Forward (2017)—reaching an international audience via the Top 25 of the Europe’s Americana Radio Chart and numerous “Best Albums of the Year” lists from New York City to Oregon, United Kingdom to Italy and beyond. According to Vanguard Records executive and critic Bill Bentley, “Screen Door Porch transformed roots music into something much larger—a down home goodtime vibe,” while The Austin Chronicle noted that the duo “lends an easy Western flair to their more prominent native influences of North Carolina and Kentucky, a combination that goes down as smoothly as top-shelf bourbon.”
In a full-page article “Touring, the Wyoming Way,” The New York Timespointed out Screen Door Porch’s “entrepreneurial gumption in founding the multi-act WYOmericana Caravan Tour, a traveling concert circus.” The grassroots tour collective of Wyoming songwriters has made waves across the Mountain West for six years (2013-2017, 2020), featuring as many as a dozen musicians on stage. The award-winning documentary WYOMERICANA depicts the inaugural tour in 2013, which unites and exposes top-notch original acts in Wyoming. Screen Door Porch’s contributions from both a musical perspective and as proponents of the broader Wyoming musical community were recognized by state government, which selected the band to be ambassadors to the state’s music scene through a national ad campaign and short film.
As a solo artist, Aaron’s songs have landed in various projects including films, commercials, documentaries, podcasts, and network television. He has shared bills with many of his heroes—Wilco, Willie Nelson, Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit, Buddy Guy, Sam Bush, Brian Wilson, James McMurtry, Steve Earle, Hayes Carll, and Grace Potter. This has led to theater, club and festival stages including South by Southwest, Treefort Music Fest, Targhee Bluegrass Fest, Magic City Blues Fest, JacksonHoleLive, Sawtooth Music Festival, and the first and only Wyoming band (SDP) to record sessions at Paste Magazine’s Daytrotter studio and subscription music service.
Davis is also a freelance writer and photographer, founder of juke joint blues band Boondocks, curator-founder of the intimate concert series Songwriter’s Alley, and makes records with folks in the log cabin space of Three Hearted Recording. Recent studio collaborations as a recording and mixing engineer include Jason Tyler Burton, Coyote Queen, The Minor Keys, Isaac Hayden, Micah Maly, and Quinn Cerovski.
As a writer and photographer—currently with Jackson Hole Buckrail and formerly as the weekly music columnist for Planet Jackson Hole (2005-2017)—Aaron has been fortunate to interview and photograph some of the greatest artists of our time: Taj Mahal, Dr. John, Bela Fleck, Maceo Parker, Del McCoury, Michael Franti, John Perry Barlow, Mickey Hart, Warren Haynes, Wayne Coyne of Flaming Lips, Robert Cray, John Prine, Lyle Lovett, Buddy Guy, Ruthie Foster, Grace Potter, Mark Farina, and scores of colorful local bands. In addition to writing about music, Aaron has contributed several cover stories, news pieces, travel and outdoor narratives, and photo essays as well as reviews of albums, concerts and movies. His pieces have also appeared in Jackson Hole Review, The Oregonian, The Business Journal, Jambase.com, Libertarian Party News, The Statesman Journal, and Cascade Policy Institute.