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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.

Freelance writer for Classic Rock since 2008, and sister title Prog since its inception in 2009. Regular contributor to Uncut magazine for over 20 years. Other clients include Word magazine, Record Collector, The Guardian, Sunday Times, The Telegraph and When Saturday Comes. Alongside Marc Riley, co-presenter of long-running A-Z Of David Bowie podcast. Also appears twice a week on Riley’s BBC6 radio show, rifling through old copies of the NME and Melody Maker in the Parallel Universe slot. Designed Aston Villa’s kit during a previous life as a sportswear designer. Geezer Butler told him he loved the all-black away strip.