Doodles in the margin from an artist living and working in the Scottish Borders.

Monday, 4 April 2011

Music on Monday: "A Hard Man To Follow."

You're given a CD and a little Subbuteo figure of Davy Graham and told to put him in his chronological place in the Subbuteo folk music line-up.

He's got to have absorbed the work done by Bert Jansch, Wizz Jones, John Renbourne, the Martins Carthy and Simpson, not to mention Jimmy Page. They all played exploratory, open-to-the-world interpretations of traditional music, drawing in sounds and tunings from outside the western tradition. No-one could be that accomplished, fully formed, have gone so far and been the first to do it.

But, yes, like a Big Bang, Dav(e)y Graham exploded uniquely into life* and all of those musicians followed in his dazzling wake. John Renbourne said of him, "Back in the sixties he was so far ahead of just about any would-be picker that it was practically miraculous. I can't think of any of my contemporaries from those days who weren't completely knocked over by his playing, and we all owe him a huge debt." Despite this, he never made the same leap into the public consciousness as the likes of Renbourne or Jansch; just as music in the late sixties seemed to be rolling around to being recepetive to what he was doing, his path curved the other way and he faded off the scene. It's illuminating to put Graham's She Moves Through the Fair and Mustapha back to back and compare them with Jimmy Page's White Summer. Quite - cough - similar.

Genius (and Graham was one) doesn't necessarily have to be troubled, but Davy Graham was a spiky and complex character all of his life. A heroin addict for many years (deliberately, some said, an attempt to follow in the footsteps of Charlie Parker and the like.) He died in December 2008; obituaries here and here.

There isn't a lot of Graham footage about, but I found a snippet from the Folk Britannia programme on YouTube (thanks to jrowe2k) which puts him in the context of those - somewhat awestruck - musicians who were his contemporaries.

The second clip is an audio track, from the After Hours CD, and it's jaw-dropping.

*Well, no. No-one comes out of nothing, and Davey Graham cited guitarist Steve Benbow as an influence. And so on.

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