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.
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: