If you want to know why Davy Graham was such a unique and influential artist just listen to the first track on Large As Life And Twice As Natural, his third studio album. Actually, listen to the whole record but the first track will tell you all you need to know.
That track is ‘Both Sides Now’, yes, the Joni Mitchell song, although initially you wouldn’t recognise it. In 1968 it was known from the Judy Collins cover; Joni wouldn’t release it for another year. For Davy it must have seemed like a blank canvas. He begins with a bass drone, then introducing a guitar instrumental with wordless vocals which is reminiscent of ‘She Moves Through The Fair’ or possibly ‘Blackwaterside’. Only after two minutes or so does he burst into a high energy version of the song with his band in full cry.
I should tell you that the “band” consists of four of the go-to sides-men of the time: Danny Thompson, Jon Hiseman, Harold McNair and Dick Heckstall-Smith, all capable of playing anything that was asked of them be it folk, blues, jazz or whatever and, on this record, Graham asks a lot. He follows it up with the traditional ‘Bad Boy Blues’, a musical form that he was irresistibly drawn to. Here you’ll find four blues songs and a couple more that come close but Graham is musically restless so the third track is ‘Tristano’, a solo guitar composition.
There are two of Graham’s famous ragas, both different in character and using his original tunings. The first is the appropriately named ‘Sunshine Raga’, which starts slowly as though coming up with the dawn waking up the bass and drums as it rises while a very western melody emerges. The second, which closes the album, is ‘Blue Raga’ with its beautiful echoey opening phrase and Hiseman’s percussion running alongside the guitar.
As if these delights are not enough, there is the Moroccan-inspired ‘Jenra’ and a solemn version of the traditional ‘Bruton Town’. You come away with the impression that these musicians could do just about anything and you can see why Large As Life And Twice As Natural is held to be one of Graham’s finest works.
If you would like to order a copy of the album (in CD or Vinyl), download it or just listen to snippets of selected tracks (track previews are usually on the download page) then click on the DAVY GRAHAM – Large As Life And Twice As Natural link to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website. Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.
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You can hear more of Davy Graham at https://www.bbc.co.uk/music/artists/84b35dee-b1d6-4bf6-8748-8bb9918bebaf
and there is a nice feature at http://www.folkblues.co.uk/artistsgraham.html
No film as such but listen to ‘Blue Raga’ anyway: