Hat, released in 1969, was Davy Graham’s third album for Decca. The mixture of blues, jazz and mainstream songwriting with a little classical thrown in continues the pattern set by his earlier work but it is a rather slight album. Only three tracks exceed three minutes and one can’t help but think that a modern day producer would have encouraged Davy to expand one or two of the pieces. If that would be a good thing I’ll leave for you to decide but it does sometimes feel as though he’s hurrying to get finished.
He opens with the first “mainstream” song, The Beatles’ ‘Getting Better’, and later we have two Paul Simon songs and one by Bob Dylan. ‘Down Along The Cove’ is stripped of its pedal steel and pared back to its 12-bar roots which is a clever way of approaching it. Second is ‘Lotus Blossom’, a song from 1930s popularised by Jimmy Witherspoon and given a hint of ‘Anji’, and then the first of two Willie Dixon songs, ‘I’m Ready’. Davy is accompanied on this album by Danny Thompson on double-bass and an unnamed percussionist and the arrangements seem to fit with the pace and energy of the performances.
Art Blakey’s ‘Buhaina Chant’ is the first of the jazz compositions played with a north African vibe and it’s followed, somewhat incongruously, by ‘Homeward Bound’. It’s a sentimental song of homesickness in Paul Simon’s hands but Davy races through it – actually it works quite well. The other Simon song is ‘I Am A Rock’. After the traditional ‘Love Is Pleasing’ Davy gives us a hornpipe by Purcell adapted from the harpsichord and after the Dylan song we have ‘Hoochie Coochie Man’ and a guitar composition by Stan Watson. And so he moves between styles and times with abandon – I enjoy the album but I wish Davy had stretched out on even one track to show what he could really do.
Hindsight is wonderful. Looking back to 1966 when Midnight Man, Davy Graham’s second Decca album, was originally released, its eclectic mix of material was fairly representative of the state of the music business in the UK from Jim Reeves and Frank Sinatra at one extreme to The Rolling Stones and The Kinks at the other. Come to think of it, Davy Graham was still somewhere out there.
The album opens with Graham’s own ‘No Preacher Blues’ which was something of a protest song taken at a fast tempo. It’s followed by ‘The Fakir’, composed by Lalo Schifrin while performing with Dizzy Gillespie. Graham makes this jazz track his own, sometimes playing what might have been a sitar part on guitar. He’s aided by Tony Reeves on bass and Barry Morgan on percussion for what is probably the record’s best track. There’s more jazz to come with Herbie Hancock’s ‘Watermelon Man’ and Junior Mance’s ‘Jubilation’ but next up is a cover of ‘I’m Looking Through You’ which was about as mainstream as you could get. Of course, Graham does pick one of the less well-known tracks from Rubber Soul.
There are more blues with ‘Stormy Monday’, ‘Lost Lover Blues’ and ‘Jelly Roll Baker’; rock’n’roll in the shape of ‘Money Honey’ and R&B with Rufus Thomas’ ‘Walkin’ The Dog’ but this mix of material hangs together well and it’s made to do so by Davy’s wonderful guitar playing.
Graham’s reputation has grown with the years and the current program of reissues is proof of that. It’s such a shame that people didn’t get him at the time.
David Michael Gordon “Davey” Graham (originally spelled Davy Graham) (26 November 1940 – 15 December 2008) was born in Leicestershire, to a Guyanese mother and a Scottish father. He learnt to play the piano and harmonica as a child and then took up the classical guitar at the age of 12. As a teenager he was strongly influenced by the folk guitar player Steve Benbow, who had travelled widely and played a guitar style influenced by Moroccan music. Graham was one of the most influential figures in the 1960s British Folk Revival. He inspired many famous practitioners of the fingerstyle acoustic guitar such as Bert Jansch, Ralph McTell, Martin Carthy, Paul Simon, John Martyn and indeed Jimmy Page. Graham is probably best known for his acoustic instrumental ‘Anji’ and for popularizing DADGAD tuning, later widely adopted by many acoustic guitarists. Not one to be categorised Graham could be seen as a true World music artist covering the genres of folk, blues and jazz.
Following the 2017 rerelease of Folk, Blues & Beyond and Large As Life And Twice As Natural, 2019 will see the reissue of Midnight Man and Hat, available on CD and vinyl.
When Davy Graham’s previous album, “Folk, Blues and Beyond…”, was issued by Decca in 1965, it collected praises from many people and for many different reasons. The Folk press (almost to a critic) hailed its release as an event of major importance; but then, so did most of the Rhythm-and-Blues publications. Guitarists bought it, listening to the solos and accompaniments with considerable excitement – and some of them even began to follow Davy around, studying his methods and technique. (So far without being able to emulate him). Meanwhile, copies of the record were usually to be found lying in the backs of those dusty, message-covered vans that beat groups use to travel from one job to another. And, finally, and certainly the most satisfying praise of all, a general audience of fans bought it in sufficient quantities to make the need for this second album an inevitability …
Since making the first album, Davy has been actively changing and extending himself musically – several results of which can be heard within these newer performances. He has been travelling again (to Ibiza, then through the Aegean and on to Constantinople), listening carefully to all the musical sounds en route. He has been deeply engrossed in the writings of Ouspensky. And – in bizarre contrast – he has been experimenting with an amplifier to put a different sound into two or three of his solos. Also, he has been absorbing some unusual (for him, at least) sources of inspiration (i.e. The Beatles, Oscar Brown, Jnr. and Jimmy Hughes), letting his own imagination first of all combine with, and then gradually take over from an initial curiosity. I think such involvements have been, if somewhat surprisingly, a great success; as have his experiments with conventional blues and modern jazz pieces, and – of course – the incredible excursion with Lalo Schifrin’s ‘The Fakir’, which seems fairly certain to become the instrumental ‘hit’ on this album … just as ‘Maajun’ was on the previous one.
If anything, and in conclusion, I would say that the second Davy Graham album (here enclosed) is more extrovert and more aggressive, musically, than the first was; although I realise this could be the logical result of his increased experience and growing maturity as an artist. However, I don’t believe it will disappoint any of his original fans; and it ought to bring him plenty of new ones… together with several more guitarists who want to know how to manage to do all he does during ‘The Fakir’!
The selections on this album are intended to please not only Blues and Folk fans but all those of the New Breed who are just taking up modern music.
I get many requests for guitar pieces from ‘classical’ listeners, so I have included a few finger-busters for them. The two pieces by Oliver Hunt and Stan Watson respectively have never been recorded before. And the adaptation of the Purcell hornpipe is entirely my own. For the next album, there is a Latin piece I would like to do, and also a 14th Century pavan for guitar: but we can discuss these at a later date.
There are also two Muddy Waters’ numbers here (both actually written by Willie Dixon, the giant bass-player who resided at the “Trois Mailletz” in Paris with Memphis Slim in the early Sixties.) And there are two songs by Paul Simon. Paul is a good friend of mine and these are two of his best.
The aim on all my discs, as you know better than anyone, has been to make ‘Music’ a sufficiently attractive title in itself, and to draw some of those music lovers who previously thought jazz and folk-forms and classical things to be irreconcilable elements. And I predict there will be many more musical revolutions in the near future. I myself would like to explore spirituals a lot more in the next few years. And – if I get the time – I would like to follow up two more projects. One is another trip to the East. Another is an album of some ‘pop’ favourites of mine, backed by an orchestra. Pieces like ‘No Milk Today’, ‘Eleanor Rigby’, ‘A Whiter Shade of Pale’, ‘Daydream’ and something featuring electric blues guitar – dig Lonnie Johnson on ‘Drunk Again’ by the way.
You ask me about my Eastern modes and studies of Indian music. Well, firstly, I am the originator of the modal tuning DADGAD – that is, bass-string first. Also, Indian harmonics are extremely difficult to hear unless you are in a room with a spherical dome-shape, and even then you should not be more than 3 or 4 feet from the instrument. One’s listening progress may be learnt from being able to hear on the high strings the 9th or sub-mediant RE, the 5th, SOL in a major oriental piece, and from being able to hear the flatted 5th in a minor piece. (Electrification, of course, and feedback, have made it almost impossible for the ‘teeny-popsters’ to understand Ravi and Ali Akbar, and there’s even the danger of their ears for music being destroyed altogether.
‘Anji’ – it has to be, even if someone can’t spell it:
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.
Davy (or Davey) Graham’s Folk, Blues & Beyond is a reissue of his 1965 Decca album on licence to Bread and Wine Records/East Central One, due for release on October 27th 2017. It retains the same tracks and running order as the original vinyl release and the Topic reissue CD from 1999, unlike the 2005 reissue from Fledg’Ling which also included five rarely-seen earlier recordings. It does include the original sleeve notes from producer Ray Horricks and a booklet including a 2016 article for Rolling Stone by David Fricke.
There are few folk-ish guitarists of my generation who haven’t owned or at least heard this album at one time or other, and even fewer who were not influenced by his work directly or indirectly. Indeed, that influence extended far beyond the folkier types who picked up on his use of modal tunings, and eclectic pickers like Bert Jansch and John Renbourn. Even in the 60s/70s it extended into the commercial and rock ecologies with (for instance) Paul Simon and Chicken Shack’s Stan Webb – two of many guitarists who recorded Davy’s instrumental ‘Angi’ (a.k.a. ‘Anji’).
Here’s the track-by-track summary:
‘Leavin’ Blues’ is credited to Leadbelly, though it strays quite a long way from Louisiana and the Chesapeake and Ohio (C&O) railroad so beloved of so many blues and old-timey singers. The intro has a decidedly Eastern feel, often described as raga-like or sitar-like, though to me it’s more Middle Eastern in intonation than Indian. The main body of the song uses octaves in a guitar figure that recalls Leadbelly’s version while going far beyond it, returning to some Eastern voicings in the mid-song instrumental break. I suspect that this was played in DADGAD tuning: at any rate, it falls off the fingers quite easily that way.
‘Cocaine Blues’ has been a folk club staple for many years: this version apparently derives at least in part from Rambling Jack Elliot – it’s a song with a multitude of floating verses – though Davy’s guitar gives it extra swing and fluency. Still my favourite version, 50 years on.
‘Sally Free And Easy’ is another folk club standard, written (of course) by Cyril Tawney, though more often performed in a more ‘traditional’ manner. I’ve always thought that this rhythmic, drum-driven version has an entirely appropriate maritime-motor feel, though it can be sung very prettily unaccompanied.
‘Black Is The Colour Of My True Love’s Hair’ uses more or less the same lyrics to this (originally traditional) song as Nina Simone’s. Simone used the tune written by John Jacob Niles, as does Davy. Wisely, perhaps, he doesn’t attempt the vocal pyrotechnics that both Simone and Niles tended towards. Not the strongest performance on the album, vocally, but worth it just for the subtle, restrained musicianship of the guitar part.
‘Rock Me Baby’ is one of a group of blues songs with similar titles and themes: the version here is very much as Big Bill Broonzy wrote and recorded it (also recorded as ‘Rocking Chair Blues’) though the drums and bass here augment a typically jazzy arrangement. I suspect that Broonzy, who often played and recorded in a jazz context, would not have been unhappy with this version. I love it.
‘Seven Gypsies’ recalls his collaboration with Shirley Collins Folk Roots, New Roots, released a little earlier if I recall correctly, being a traditional ballad (Child 200) treated to a typical guitar accompaniment, athletic but not flashy. While there are longer, more dramatic and certainly more ‘authentic’ versions, I’ve always liked the way this version, like some American versions, strips the story to its barest bones. I’d love to have heard Shirley sing this version, but I don’t know if she ever did.
‘Ballad Of The Sad Young Men’ is an abbreviated version of the song by Fran Landesman and Tommy Wolf from the 1959 musical The Nervous Set. While the whole lyric bears close examination, Davy’s version gets to the point, and it suits his voice.
‘Moanin” is the classic Bobby Timmons composition, played faster and harder (and more succinctly) than the Jazz Messengers version, and no worse for the experience.
‘Skillet (Good ‘N’ Greasy)’ is a song associated with Uncle Dave Macon, among others: this version, from an unnamed banjo player, is fairly similar to a version recorded by Woody Guthrie, but Woody never played guitar like this. But then, who apart from Davy did?
‘Ain’t Nobody’s Business What I Do’ is a blues standard from the 1920s that has branched off into many variations of tune and lyric. According to the original sleeve notes “Davy says ‘In my lyrics, I’ve chosen to bring out the loneliness side of the song.’” There aren’t too many examples of Davy’s lyrics around, but if these are original, they’re entirely suitable. In any case, it’s a great version.
‘Maajun (A Taste Of Tangier)’ is Davy’s take on “a melody he found in Tangier”. It’s a stunning instrumental track with sympathetic bass and drums.
‘I Can’t Keep From Crying Sometimes’ is a song mostly associated with Blind Willie Johnson, as credited here. However, this is very different from Johnson’s growl and slide version. (I don’t believe I ever heard Davy play slide.) But just as effective.
‘Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right’ is a song by some American singer/songwriter whose name escapes me. Faster than most people seem to play it, and it works fine that way. It suits Davy’s voice very well.
‘My Babe’, Willie Dixon’s secular rewrite of ‘This Train’ for Little Walter, was long popular with British R&B and pub rock bands, and probably still is. Davy’s “Chico Hamilton-ish” version swings a little more than was usual in those contexts, and is all the better for it.
‘Going Down Slow’ is a classic if lugubrious blues. This version was learned from Champion Jack Dupree, but the interpretation is pure Davy Graham.
‘Better Git In Your Soul’ (Charles Mingus) is an exquisite example of how Davy, on the right day, could take a jazz theme and make it sound as if he wrote it himself. Fine work (as on several other tracks) by Tony Reeves (bass) and Barry Morgan (drums).
Davy Graham made many fine albums, but perhaps this and Folk Roots, New Roots (which provided a template of sorts for the English folk rock bands that came later) were the most influential. He was capable of phenomenal instrumental technique, and a pleasant voice, if a little erratic in pitch at times. At least as importantly, he defied categorization and musical boundaries, and generations of guitarists have benefited from that breaking of barriers. If you don’t know Davy’s work or this album specifically, you owe yourself the opportunity to hear it.
Beverley Martyn started her musical career at just 16 with the jug band The Levee Breakers and recorded her first single “Babe I’m Leaving You” in 1965. In 1966 she was chosen to launch Deram Records and released a single, “Happy New Year” written by Randy Newman. She contributed to the Simon & Garfunkel album Bookends, toured America with the duo and later appeared at the Monterey Pop Festival on 16 June 1967.
In 1969 she met John Martyn, whom she later married. As a duo they issued two albums, Stormbringer! and The Road to Ruin. Although she was spending more time with her children, Beverley continued to contribute to John’s solo projects until the breakdown of their marriage.
At various times, Martyn has worked with Levon Helm, Jimmy Page, Dave Pegg, Richard Thompson, John Renbourn, Ralph McTell, Davy Graham, and Sandy Denny. She appeared in the photograph on the album sleeve of Bert Jansch’s 1965 album It Don’t Bother Me; where she can be seen lounging in the background. In December 2013, Beverley appeared at the Royal Festival Hall as part of a celebration of Bert Jansch, alongside friends and contemporaries such as Donovan, Martin Carthy, Pentangle and Robert Plant. Her powerhouse performance of “” was described by Mojo as ‘sounding almost Janis Joplin-esque’. A film of the event is due to be shown by the BBC in the spring.
In 2004, Fat Boy Slim sampled Beverley Martyn’s song “Primrose Hill” for the track “North West Three” which is on his album Palookaville. Beverley still performs the song live along with ‘Auntie Aviator’, also from The Road The Ruin.
April 2014 will see the release of her new album entitled The Phoenix and the Turtle. Described by Beverley as a very personal album, it features songs written throughout her entire career, from her very first song, “Sweet Joy”, to the previously unrecorded Nick Drake & Beverley Martyn song “Reckless Jane” which was started in 1974 when Drake lived nearby Beverley in Hampstead. “We started writing the song as a bit of a joke,” she says, “I couldn’t look at it for a long time after he died, but then finally I decided to finish it.”
“When The Levee Breaks’ and ‘Going To Germany’ are songs Beverley used to sing with The Levee Breakers. Another song, ‘Women And Malt Whiskey’ is, in part, about John Martyn and other friends from the scene back then.
The Phoenix and the Turtle is Beverley’s first album in fourteen years and was recorded in Wales with guitarist and producer Mark Pavey; it also features contributions from bass player Matt Malley, ex-Counting Crows and drummer Victor Bisetti, ex-Los Lobos which were recorded “by the magic of computer” in California. The album “still has that in-a-room feel,” said Beverley recently, “it sounds like an old style analogue record. It’s very me, very transatlantic.”