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DAVY GRAHAM - Folk, Blues & Beyond

DAVY GRAHAM - Folk, Blues & Beyond
Bread & Wine BRINECD1

Some nine years after his passing, it is refreshing to revisit some of the earlier albums from Graham’s canon. Folk, Blues & Beyond, from 1964, was released just one month before his renowned collaboration with Shirley Collins (Folk Roots, New Routes) and is an amalgam of his folk, blues and jazz influences. Coming just two years after his debut EP with Alexis Korner that gave guitarists the world over Anji to get their teeth into, he continues the theme with a masterful Cocaine that he borrowed from Jack Elliott. Dylan is given the obligatory nod in Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right, and he gives Bill Broonzy’s Rock Me Baby his own slant to great effect. Mostly in concert pitch, this album is not significant for the source material – there were contemporaries doing almost identical sets – it is the revolutionary guitar accompaniment which sets him ahead of the field. By the time of Large As Life And Twice As Natural in 1968, he had purloined the banjo DADGAD tuning and immersed himself in contemporary jazz and Indian influences, so there is a different vibe altogether. The opening track, his take on Joni Mitchell’s Both Sides Now that predates her recorded version by some months, could be considered sacrilege or divine interpretive revelation – I can’t see any middle ground (I’m in the latter camp). Bruton Town could well have been the source for Fairport’s version some three months later.

Both albums have guitar licks that fed into those who came later – there are hints of where Richard Thompson, John Martyn, Jimmy Page and even Jeff Beck got their inspiration – but this was the mother lode. Sadly, if all the persons who claimed influence from Davy Graham had bought his albums, his life would have taken happier turns. His contribution to the folk, blues and jazz guitar world cannot be underestimated.

Grem Devlin

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This album was reviewed in Issue 121 of The Living Tradition magazine.