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Davy Graham - Reissues album review

Baroque wizardry from the master of British guitar-folk

Cover art for Davy Graham - Reissues album

When it came to acoustic guitar music in the 60s, nobody was more influential than Davy Graham, who opened up a wealth of possibilities for followers such as Bert Jansch, John Renbourn, Roy Harper, John Martyn and the young Jimmy Page. Paul Simon even asked him to form a duo in his pre-Garfunkel days.

Graham’s nomadic journeys around Morocco formed the basis of his unique style, a dazzling blend of jazz, folk and Arabic music that reached an early peak with Folk, Blues & Beyond (910), issued in January 1965.

Graham was an interpreter rather than a songwriter, preferring to radically overhaul the works of Lead Belly, Big Bill Broonzy, Charles Mingus, Bob Dylan and others on his second solo album. He was no great singer, instead using his voice as an accompaniment to his wondrous finger-picking.

On a record stuffed with highlights, Mingus’s Better Git It In Your Soul is a blur of improvised force, while Blind Willie Johnson’s I Can’t Keep From Cryin’ Sometimes is beyond nimble.

By 1968’s Large As Life And Twice As Natural (810), with a band featuring bassist Danny Thompson and drummer Jon Hiseman, Graham was fully immersed in raga-jazz, offering a mix of explorative instrumentals, originals and a ravishing version of Joni Mitchell’s Both Sides Now.