Davy Graham: Maajun (1964)

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Davy Graham: Maajun (1964)

In his exceptional book Electric Eden: Unearthing Britain's Visionary Music, the author and folk excavator Rob Young shines his astute and poetic spotlight on not only the more well known names in British folk -- Donovan, the Incredible String Band, Pentangle, Fairport Convention, Strawbs et al -- but traces links to William Morris, Ralph Vaughan Williams and gives equal time to the likes of people like the extraordinarily gifted guitarist Davy Graham.

If Graham has registered on anyone's radar it might be for his song Angi which Paul Simon covered when a very young man, but Graham was exploring raga and Indian music (many years before George Harrison stumbled on a sitar), North African music, odd tunings (guitarists note, DADGAD not your usual EADGBE) and the modal approach which Miles Davis had taken into jazz with Kind of Blue.

Graham was nowhere near as successful as Davis or Simon or many others who followed in his wake, but he was in Tangiers in '62 where he sold hash cakes to locals and heard the Gnaoua trance music which would soon inspire Brian Jones, Ornette Coleman then Bill Laswell and any number of others.

Anyone scanning Graham's repertoire wil be astounded that he found and could play persuasively everything from Thelonious Monk's Blue Monk to black spirituals and blues, old Appalachian folk songs and traditional Anglo-folk . . . and all the while being largely ignored by anyone outside of the folk cognoscenti and slavish loyalists who might have stumbled upon -- as I did -- albums like Hat in '69 (where he covered Lennon-McCartney,  Willie Dixon and Art Blakey, and returned the favour to Paul Simon) and then worked their way back through unrecognised genius.

Graham -- unpredictable and some might say volatile -- died in late 2008 and in the subsequent obituaries he was hailed as one who never really got his due.

He was a man who thought and played in hybrid states, multicultral visions and saw little difference between jazz, blues, folk, soul, world music . . .

A man before his time. And we still haven't caught up.

For more oddities, one-offs or songs with an interesting backstory use the RSS feed for daily updates, and check the massive back-catalogue at From the Vaults.

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