Davy Graham – Anthology – 1961-2007 Lost Tapes

Possibly the most important UK acoustic guitarist ever (!). If like me you are a fan of the unadorned acoustic, and you had read such claims over the years, you may have been reasonably dubious about their veracity if all you had ever heard were Davy’s studio albums. Unavailable for a long while, the first I managed to get hold of was a compilation featuring most of the tracks from the seminal Folk, Blues and Beyond, and while it clearly was groundbreaking for the time, the drum/bass band led arrangements overshadowed the great man’s guitar.
It wasn’t until After Hours: Live at Hull University 1967 came out that I really grasped what all the fuss was about. A live taping by a friend, of Davy playing in his Uni room to a small group of (plummy voiced!) friends after a local gig. The playing is extraordinary – as is his repertoire, from Bach to Blues via Jazz. Suddenly the legend made perfect sense.

Just how cool was this man? Note Gibson acoustic – the reason John Renbourn got one, though Davy had only borrowed it for the session!

Well, if you have heard that, and like me you were impressed, wait til you hear this! Mark Pavey via his small label Les Cousins has done the world a great service and gathered together some fabulous performances from across Davy’s playing career. The three disc (!) set is arranged chronologically, and you can see clearly how he never lost his desire to develop as a player, as even towards the end of the selection his repertoire is expanding to encompass nylon strung playing and Bahamian tunes.
Admittedly, much of the audio quality is a bit patchy, as you would expect from recordings made by semi-amateurs over such a long timespan, but what a thrill to hear the Len Partridge taping of Anji for the first time – the recording from which Bert Jansch learned the tune (at the same time incorporating a bit of Worksong from the same tape, and forever earning Davy’s ire – allegedly). Nearly all the playing is jaw-droppingly incendiary, his version of Brubeck’s Take Five seems ridiculously fluent. and a concert recording appearance on disc two must have been one of the great gigs to attend -his playing is quite astounding in its attack, versatility, fluency and invention. Make no mistake, in spite of having a huge list of influences, from the music of black America, UK folk and Arab oud stylings (just check out the version of Maajun on disc two to see just how authentic he can be) he is always unmistakably Davy Graham.
….and, if the music isn’t enough, the packaging is a delight, a multiple gatefold illustrated beautifully with Davy’s own scrapbooks – a real labour of love.
If like me you are a student of the acoustic – do yourself a favour and get this – you will not be disappointed.

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