Recorded, legend has it, in a student’s room late one night Davey Graham After Hours At Hull University, 4th February 1967 is one hell of a live document; albeit one hell of a live document in need of a less functional and more zingy title^. Recorded on a single microphone, with some background chat it’s a miracle that it captured the music so well at all.
It captures Davey Graham at the height of his powers and that, dear readers is a damn awesome thing. Long unfairly ghettoized as a folk guitarist, Graham is SO much more. Just listen to the absolutely seminal ‘She Moved Thru’ The Bizarre / Blue Raga’, where he twists his own take on the trad folk tune into astonishing new forms, weaving Eastern raga and blues stylings in seven minutes of jaw-dropping virtuosity. Not only is it a talent bomb exploding on the San Andreas fault line of, umm, timely Zeitgeisty magicossity but it’s a wonderful, uplifting listen. Davey Graham is often described as a guitarist’s guitarist and you can hear his influence acutely amongst the first rank of his contemporaries, Jimmy Page was a huge fan*, Richard Thompson and Blackmore too and I have no doubt there are scores of folkoids out there I’m not knowledgeable enough to tell you about.
Now much as I love a good screaming guitar and really want to own an Airline 59 Custom soon I know next to nothing about the act of playing them. I do know is that there is the bangy, bangy fast hands end (usually the round end) and the widdly widdly fast finger sticky out bit. So I’m probably not best qualified to tell you that Davey Graham is also credited with introducing the DADGAD blues tuning to Britain in 1964, which he used to better play along with/simulate Middle-Eastern music.
I have a Rollercoaster Records 10″ reissue of After Hours … , which I picked up in 2006, which re-orders the whole LP and chops a few perfectly good songs off the original album, no matter all musical life is here. We have Bach, ‘Bouree in E Minor’**, early blues, ‘How Long Blues’, gentle ragtime and genial shuffling, the Carl Perkins-penned ‘Grooveyard’. Davey Graham’s vocals are a bit of an acquired taste and I tend to give ‘Cocaine’ a swerve as a result. However, where it really strikes is where the genres are blurred and blended together, ‘Miserlou’ for example which could, depending on your own particular set of biases be a classical or an eastern guitar piece. In fact at times it almost sounds a little like an oud or a sitar playing. Davey Graham, well-travelled at a time when most were not, is often cited as the man who really brought such influences into, if not popular culture, then into the minds of the musicians who would later popularize them.
Like all great players do he makes it sound, to a non-player like me anyway, effortless and like all truly great players the virtuosity is only there in the service of the tunes and not the other way around.
This is a real gem.
^if only they’d consulted me first: Tearing Hull A New One, After Fucking Hours, Cold Kicking It Live In Hull, Goodness Gracious Hullacious Live! to name but four.
*just check out Led Zep’s ‘Black Mountain Side’ and then deny it. In fact I first encountered Davey Graham on a Led Zep compiled cover disc of influences.
**you listening Ritchie Blackmore?