Davina Lozier has the tatted-up look of a Punk burlesque headliner, but there’s a lot more to the Minneapolis resident than her sensual charms. Lozier is a passionate vocalist whose love of vintage Blues, Jazz and R&B oozes from every note she sings, and that same verve runs through her like an electric current when she takes her place at the piano or takes flight with her ukulele. And when she and the Vagabonds hit their stride, whether it’s in the service of a slow-burn ballad or a foot-stomping groove, they swing, soar and shred in gears that automotive engineers couldn’t imagine in their wildest fever dreams.
The initial version of the Vagabonds assembled in the Twin Cities in 2004, coalescing around the Jerry-Lee-Lewis-meets-Fats-Domino piano pounding skills and Amy-Winehouse-in-the-French-Quarter vocals of Lozier, who was then Davina Sowers. Understanding that their strength was in their stage presentation, Davina and the Vagabonds’ debut album was Live @ the Times, a two-disc document of a July 2008 stand at Minneapolis’ Times Bar. The template was familiar — a swinging, sweltering mix of well-chosen covers and influence-driven yet distinctively unique original compositions — but the execution was as singular as a fingerprint and as powerfully effective as a Muhammad Ali combination. After two albums of all original material, Davina and the Vagabonds returned to the live format with 2016’s Nicollet and Tenth.
There’s plenty of drama in Lozier’s backstory. A longtime drug user, she was six years into a heroin habit when she decided to kick without the benefit of a fancy rehab, electing to get clean on the streets where it began. With the opioid cloud lifted, and after years of bouncing from city to city, Lozier moved to Minneapolis and finally found her voice and her talent, assembling the Vagabonds to play the early 20th century Blues and Jazz she had discovered in her adoptive father’s record collection, eventually writing songs steeped in that same tradition. Since then, Davina and her Vagabonds have played close to 300 dates a year, including some of the most prestigious music festivals in the world, and last year, she married Zack Lozier, her Vagabonds trumpeter.