Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Davey Graham

Davey Graham with special guest John Renbourn
Support from Alex Neilson and Ben Reynolds.
Oran Mor
Sunday 24th September

Hot diggity, if that's not one of the greatest bills you'll ever see then slap me with a kipper and call me Shirley. Seeing the great Davey Graham is a rare enough treat, but to have him supported by John Renbourne and Neilson and Reynolds is off the hook! Renbourne's recent gig in Glasgow with Peter Rowan was a joy. Indeed, he enjoyed himself so much he asked to come back and support his hero. Neilson, percussionist extraordnaire and outer reaches interpreter of folk song, will be accompanied by avant guitarist Reynolds, bringing together innovators old and new.

My preview of the gig is in the new issue of The List. A sub seems to have lopped off the end of one of my sentences without fixing the construction, but you can read my original version here...

Lauded by Bert Jansch, Jimmy Page and Eric Clapton, Davey Graham is the guitar hero’s guitar hero. But despite his revolutionary impact on acoustic guitar playing and British folk music in the early 1960s, Graham has remained a relatively obscure figure. So it’s cause for celebration that he has recently returned to public performance.

Born to a Guyanan mother and Scottish father, Graham was never one to limit his horizons. As a teenager in London he absorbed blues, jazz, folk and classical music. In the early 1960s he travelled to Morocco, where he discovered African music, and devised the groundbreaking DADGAD tuning.

It was thanks to British blues godfather Alexis Korner that Graham had his first real breakthrough. For the young John Renbourn (appearing as Graham’s special guest in Glasgow) and his future partner in psych-folk legends Pentangle, Bert Jansch, hearing the guitarist “changed everything”.

“Alexis and Davey did an EP together which had ‘Angi’ on it. It’s why Bert and I sounded like we did. Davey was our idol.”

The solo instrumental ‘Angi’, released in 1962, became Graham’s signature tune and a rite of passage for aspiring guitarists. Jansch recorded a version for his debut album and in 1966 the tune crossed over to a mass audience via Simon & Garfunkel.

Two albums Graham made in 1964 stand as his most lasting achievements. Folk Routes, New Routes, a collaboration with the great Shirely Collins, is a revelation. Graham provides remarkably inventive yet sympathetic accompaniments to Collins’ starkly beautiful readings of English traditionals like ‘Nottamun Town’ and ‘Reynardine’, his jazzy flourishes and vaguely Middle Eastern inflections adding new dimensions to these ancient songs.

His own album of that year, Folk, Blues And Beyond, was more eclectic still with Graham looking towards not only American jazz and blues, but Eastern European, North African and Indian music.
Although Graham would continue to cut important albums throughout the 1960s, subsequent decades saw him performing and recording infrequently, his already erratic behaviour exacerbated by drug problems.
Recent years, however, have seen his albums reissued, bringing him belated recognition and a new audience.
No-one can be sure exactly what to expect from a Graham performance. But as Bert Jansch testifies, that’s the beauty of his approach: "He's completely unpredictable and the audience will be treated to wherever his mind is at that moment… But I've never been less than blown away by his playing.”


I'll have a stall at Oran Mor on Sunday. Do say hello!

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