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DAVEY GRAHAM - "Folk, Blues and Beyond" Topic TSCD820 - original release 1964
DAVEY GRAHAM - "Fire in the Soul" Topic TSCD818 - original release ...

It's not hard to imagine the impact this must have had in the mid 1960s. Davey Graham hit the folk scene like a bomb (when I were just a lad), with an approach to fingerpicking and guitar tuning that drew on jazz and blues guitar and piano styles. He brought that melange of influences, along with a keen interest in what we now call "World Music" to bear on the widest range of material you could possible (not) imagine. These CD's are classic, seminal - to use a messy-sounding adjective- and their influence is too huge to gauge. Martin's Carthy and Simpson, Nic Jones, Bert Jansch, John Renbourne, to name but a few - these gents all acknowledge the Graham influence on their playing and the breakthrough that Graham's DAGDAD tuning represented.

So - how do the albums actually stand up, 35 years on? It's taken Topic a long time to reissue them on CD and Graham has released the odd clunker since then - so are they merely of curiosity value? Nothing could be further from the truth. Davey Graham's voice is, to be sure, rudimentary, although it has the same kind of quirky effectiveness that Bob Dylan's did before it became a parody of itself. The albums, however, are as sparkling, lively and full of innovation as they ever were. From the doomy "Cocaine", through "Celtic" material such as "Sally Free and Easy" and Eastern stuff such as "Maajun" to the finger-picker's rite of passage, "Anji", this is 24-carat brilliance.

This really should be required listening for all guitarists and will still astound any lover of folk and roots music with open ears. The hard bit is believing that the first of these came out in 1964, a year before Martin Carthy's first album, just to put it in context!

Alan Murray

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This album was reviewed in Issue 38 of The Living Tradition magazine.