The Davenport Family is a musical collective from Madison, Wisconsin. The project was initiated and is shepherded by Clay Ruby. Their musical style, difficult to categorize, owes more to freeform jazz, psychedelic rock, and experimental avant-garde music than to traditional folk music, and may be loosely attributed to such genres as free folk, psych folk, freak-folk, acid folk, wyrd folk or New Weird America.
The recordings and performances usually include varying combinations of acoustic instruments, hand-held percussion, cheap electronics, vocals, and what have you. Ranging from mildly sedative to tribal and bombastic. Live the music is almost always improvised, but even in the studio the recordings sometimes sound as if some stranger with a recording device had just happened upon an arcane and obscure ritual.
The Davenport Family is noted for shunning the recording studio, preferring field recording in locations such as barns, caves, or pastures. Consequently, environmental sounds such as dogs barking, birds singing, and other ambient noise may be heard on record. Though most early materials are recordings of improvised rituals, a few early releases do include composed pieces recorded in the studio.
The Davenport Family was unusually prolific in terms of number of titles released in the first years of their career, but most (though not all) of their records were pressed in small runs of limited availability on CDR's lathe cut records and cassettes. Many of these titles were recordings of live actions or imtimate recordings of family rituals. In 2005 "Free Country" CD was released by Last Visible Dog marking their first official studio album.
"Free Country" was soon followed by the infamously cursed self titled vinyl LP featuring half studio and half live workings. Just preceding "Free Country" was an unusual recording experiment that Clay Ruby conducted alone on a handheld recording device that had no erase head. This meant Ruby could overdub continuously onto what he had previously recorded but he was unable to monitor anything while actually recording. This resulting cassette, filld with fractured folk songs and mutant environmental psychedelia became "Rabbits Foot Propellor" CD on Three Lobed Recordings. Their very last jam with mask of the davenport clan on their faces, free-form improvisational folk performed on walpurgis, clay rubys brithday by clay ruby, t endless, woodman, johnny d, billy lee, nico kain, aaron laurant, tyler olson was released by Meudiademorte in october 2006
on a one sided C35 cassette called "At The Foot Of Zodiac Mountain.
Clay Ruby is present on all of the recordings with a revolving lineup of members including Nico Kain, Tony Endless, John Gould, db Pederson, Dan Woodman, Nic Stage, Tyler Olsen, Theresa Behnen, iam Lee, and many others. Though most all early releases list them simply as Davenport, because of their shifting personnel and connections to members and other bands throughout rural Wisconsin and beyond, the project now goes by name the Davenport Family.