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Folk Blues and Beyond (Bonus Track Version)

Davy Graham

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Album Review

Folk, Blues & Beyond... was Davy Graham's most groundbreaking and consistent album. More than his solo debut The Guitar Player (which was pretty jazzy) or his previous collaboration with folksinger Shirley Collins, Folk Roots, New Routes, this established his mixture of folk, jazz, blues, and Middle Eastern music, while the use of a bassist and drummer are also hinting at (though not quite reaching) folk-rock. "Leavin' Blues," "Skillet (Good 'N' Greasy)," and "Moanin'" are all among his very best folk-blues-rock performances, while on "Maajun" he goes full-bore into Middle Eastern music on one of his most haunting and memorable pieces. Covers of traditional folk standards like "Black Is the Colour of My True Love's Hair" and "Seven Gypsies" combine with interpretations of compositions by Bob Dylan ("Don't Think Twice, It's Alright"), Willie Dixon ("My Babe"), Charles Mingus ("Better Git in Your Soul"), and Reverend Gary Davis ("Cocaine") for an eclecticism of repertoire that wasn't matched by many musicians of any sort in the mid-'60s.

If there is one aspect of the recording to criticize, it is, as was usually the case with Graham, the thin, colorless vocals. The guitar playing is the main attraction, though; it's so stellar that it makes the less impressive singing easy to overlook. Ten of the 16 songs were included on the compilation Folk, Blues & All Points in Between, but Graham fans should get this anyway, as the level of material and musicianship is pretty high throughout most of the disc. In 2005, A Wing And A Prayer Ltd. reissued Folk, Blues & Beyond on its Fledg'ling label and took it beyond the album's original boundaries: the 16-track LP became a 21-track CD with the addition of a live rendition of "She Moved Through the Fair" (Graham's re-composition of a 17th century folksong, which was ripped off by the Yardbirds as "White Summer" and "adapted" [in tandem with a Bert Jansch piece called "Blackwaterside"] by Led Zeppelin into "Black Mountain Side") and "Mustapha," from a Decca release called From a London Hootenanny; and a trio of songs from a Topic Records' EP entitled 3/4 A.D. The latter includes Graham's own version of "Anji," an instrumental that subsequently entered millions of homes by way of a cover by Paul Simon on the Sounds of Silence album, as well as a pair of much bluesier (and totally spellbinding) pieces. The sound is excellent, and beyond what this brings out in the nuances of the playing, even Graham's vocals (ostensibly the album's slightly weak link) on some of the blues numbers like St. Louis Jimmy Oden's "Goin' Down Slow," come off pretty well here, or at any rate as well as any white guy competing with the likes of Champion Jack Dupree and Howlin' Wolf is ever going to come off. And the annotation tells the outlines of Graham's story about as well as any release yet devoted to the work of this enigmatic and immensely important musician. ~ Richie Unterberger & Bruce Eder, Rovi


Born: 22 November 1940 in Leicester, England

Genre: Singer/Songwriter

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

Davy Graham was one of the most eclectic guitarists of the 1960s, and his mixture of folk, blues, jazz, Middle Eastern sounds, and Indian ragas was an important catalyst of the British folk scene. Like Sandy Bull and John Fahey — two folk-based guitarists with a similar taste for genre-bending experimentation — Graham could not be said to be a rock musician. But like Bull and Fahey, he shared the eagerness of the '60s psychedelic rockers to stretch out and incorporate unpredictable influences...
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