Sunday, May 27, 2012

From My Collection: Davey Graham's Folk Blues And All Points In Between

By Richard K. Barry 

There are certain recording artists that you're a little afraid to say anything about because their fans are a bit different than other music fans. I'm not talking about people who really like the Beatles or the Rolling Stones and can tell you everything there to know about every cut on every album and every live performance. They're bad enough, but in a sense these bands belong to everyone and we all know a little something so each of us can feel okay claiming some ownership.

It's the artists who are a little more obscure, though great, that worry me. There are always a handful of people out there who so closely identify with said artist that to say anything that might not be perfect is to invite their derision as a poser. Even if you don't say anything wrong, it's just the idea that you are illegitimately placing yourself in proximity to the great one that rankles.

I find this attitude particularly alive among jazz fans.

British folk guitarist legend Davey Graham can also fall into this category. I once knew a guy who may have been Graham's biggest fan. He even went to England to track him down. I haven't seen this particular fan in years, but he's the type to which I refer.

Davey Graham was a legendary British guitarist in the genre of fingerstyle acoustic guitar, who came up in the sixties. People like John Martyn, Paul Simon, John Renbourne, Bert Jansch, and Matin Carthy were influenced by Graham, as were the folk rock bands Pentangle and Fairport Convention, and a lot of other people.

As an acoustic guitar player, I can appreciate the fact that Graham pioneered the DADGAD guitar tuning, which is a different way to tune the strings on a guitar, used extensively in Celtic music. It's not clear if he invented it but it is closely associated with him.

His best known song is a tune called Anji or Angi, which was recorded by Paul Simon and appears on Simon and Garfunkel's 1966 ablum Sounds of Silence.

I have always thought of Graham as a folk musician, but it is hard to deny that he could do magical things with blues and jazz and Middle Eastern music.

I count 19 albums if you include compilations and collaborations.

Graham famously battled drug abuse, but it was lung cancer that killed him in 2008.

The album I have on the turntable (you heard right) at the moment is called Folk Blues And All Points In Between.

According to the website Folk Blues & Beyond, this album was a re-release of previous material. Side one contains ten songs from the 1964 album Folk, Blues and Beyond. Side two features seven tracks from three albums he did in the late 1960s.

As Richie Unterberger writes:

The 1964 record was probably his most accomplished, as Graham handled blues, jazz, and Northern African music with aplomb. His other '60s recordings were more erratic, but the highlights gathered here matched his mid-1960s work, peaking with the original "No Preacher Blues," his folk-jazz cover of Joni Mitchell's "Both Sides Now," and the Indian-influenced "Blue Raga."

The track listing is as follows:

Side One
1. Leaving blues
2. Cocaine
3. Rock me baby
4. Moanin'
5. Skillet
6. Ain't nobody's business if I do
7. Maajun
8. I can't keep from crying sometimes
9. Going down slow
10. Better git it in your soul

Side Two
1. Freight train blues
2. Both sides now
3. No preacher blues
4. Bad boy blues
5. I'm ready
6. Hoochie coochie man
7. Blue raga

There, I hope I didn't offend any true fan. Here's a song from the album, originally recorded, as noted, in 1964 for Folk Blues and Beyond. It's a Graham original called "Maajun (A Taste of Tangier)." The Eastern influences are obvious, if the title didn't give it away.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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