The Complete Guitarist
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Graham is a perfectionist. Since 1962, when he recorded the quiet
remarkable - and largely unnoticed - ¾ AD with Alexis Korner,
he has restricted his record output, and almost everything he has
recorded has been of a high standard. So when he agrees that this
is one of the finest records he's made, it really has to be one of
the finest guitar records of recent years. His philosophy is that
" I'd rather do this work and be a better musician. The more
often I tune on TV or listen to the radio the better I think I am.
People seem to have such low standards."
Back in the early '60, when
no one had invented jazz - rock, folk - rock or talked about "Fusion
Music" Davy was already breaking down the barriers - and using
jazz one acoustic guitar to do it. His two 1965 albums, Folk, Blues
and Beyond and Folk Routes, New Routes were like the delayed time
bombs. No one quite acknowledged them fully at the time, but they
were to prove the start, not just of the so - called "Folk Baroque"
guitar phase, but of far wider experiments in the folk field. On the
first album, Davy combined an Indian sounding theme with Leadbelly's
"Living Blues", and included a song by Cyril Tawney along
side a tune by Bobby Timmons. On the second album, made with folk
singer Shirley Collins he played Eastern style music and jazz pieces
along side Shirley's traditionalist singing.
This album is a natural continuation of his earlier, eclectic work, and shows the remarkable range of styles in which Davy works - from his own jazz and blues influenced compositions to Irish traditional themes and renaissance pieces. There's even jazz standard - always Horace Silver Sarah - but no North African or Indian pieces. This is not because Davy has lost interest in his type of music but rather he is currently mastering their authentic instruments, i.e. the Moroccan lute, Indian sarod and even the Greek bazouki. He will only use this professionally "when I'm at a professional standard". The sixteen tunes on this album were all chosen because they were instrumentals Davy likes and enjoys playing, rather than to demonstrate particular guitar styles, but of course the results work on both levels. This album is both an intriguing musical selection and tribute to his remarkable technique. He has included hymn tunes, a selection of Irish melodies that are a great personal favourite on his. "They are mostly pipe and fiddle tunes and I've been working on them for some time. I take a great interest in the Irish scene and I'm learning the language." Along side this there are the classical and medieval pieces ranging from Vaughn Williams Down Ampney to the prelude From The Suite In D Minor by Robert De Visee. ("a Frenchman who matched Downland")
All the instrumental were recorded "straight", with no overdubbing or double tracking (even though it sounds as if Davy is playing at least two guitars in some sections). During the recordings he used three different guitars in all (classical guitar for the early, courtly pieces, a steel-strung guitar for the Irish tunes and a high strung guitar for the Bach and medieval pieces). He used a variety of tunings in order to capture the texture and feel that each tune offered. When he is appearing, Davy says he believes in "Not trying to tell jokes, or talking too much as some musicians do. One should just play." Anyone who has seen his performance in recent months will know that the sometimes elusive and mysterious Mr Graham is alive, well and after all these years as an under-recognised guitar master, is "just playing" as brilliantly as ever. He is the one man who can justify calling an album "The Compete Guitarist"
- Robin Denslow, 1978. Original sleeve notes. (Thanks to Bridget Ramsay for the notes).
Those who are unfamiliar with Davey Graham's work, The Complete Guitarist might seem like a lofty title for this album. But it's a title that the Scottish musician, who has commanded a lot of respect in U.K. folk circles since emerging in the 1960s, lives up to on these unaccompanied acoustic solo-guitar recordings from the late 1970s. Diversity is the rule on this album, and Graham successfully turns his attention to an abundance of traditional Celtic songs (both Scottish and Irish) as well as everything from Bach's "Ein Feste Burg" to blues classics like Big Bill Broonzy's "When I Been Drinking" and Memphis Slim's "How Come You Do Me Like You Do." Whether it's Celtic music, classical, blues, or jazz, Graham has no problem tackling a variety of styles and demonstrating that he really is the complete guitarist. Originally released as a vinyl LP in the late 1970s, The Complete Guitarist was, in 1999, reissued on CD with eight bonus tracks from 1979-1980 added.
- Alex Henderson (AMG)
Lord Mayo/Lord Inchiquin (Traditional) - 4:30
Lashtal's Room (Graham) - 1:59
Ein Feste Burg (A Mighty Fortress Is Our... (Bach) - 1:29
The Rod to Lisdoonvana (Traditional) - 1:58
Renaissance Piece (Traditional) - 1:50
Hardman the Fiddler (Traditional) - 1:39
Sarah - 3:55
Frieze Britches (Traditional) - 3:00
Blues for Gino (Graham) - 2:56
The Hunter's Purse (Traditional) - 1:25
Prelude from the Suite in D Minor (De Visee) - 1:02
Fairies' Hornpipe (Traditional) - 1:30
Forty Ton Parachute (Graham) - 1:28
The Gold Ring (Traditional) - 2:20
Down Ampney (Vaughan Williams) - :49
Banish Misfortune (Traditional) - 1:52