Davy Graham – Hat

Album Review | Bread & Wine | Review by Marc Higgins | Stars: 4/5

HAT, recorded and released in 1969 was Davy Graham’s sixth album and his fifth for Decca. To begin with there is a degree of formula to the ingredients. The album opens with an energetic take on Lennon and McCartney’s “Getting Better.” Graham’s jangling guitar and Danny Thompson’s impeccable double bass are spot on. Davy’s sleeve notes have an older statesman jazzer’s perspective on the ‘two lads’ showing promise. But it’s easy to see how a bohemian guitar player signed to a major label, building a reputation, might identify with the optimistic lyric. Paul Simon’s “Homeward Bound” is a vivid snapshot of the weary troubadour travelling between appearances and wishing they were somewhere else. “Lotus Blossom”, with killer bass and guitar parts, is a love song. Davy says he got it from English blues singer Redd Sullivan and that it’s a long time fav of smooth blues jazz singer Jimmy Witherspoon. I wonder if it would have amused him to know it was originally a risqué song about intoxication called “Marahuana” from a flop 1934 murder mystery farce called Murder at the vanities. Try singing “Sweet Marahuana” instead of “Lotus Blossom” and the sense of the song changes. ” I’m Ready” is the Willie Dixon song made famous by Muddy Waters. Davy’s vocal doesn’t have the velvet power of Muddy, but he delivers it with energy and conviction. “Buhaina Chant” is one of Graham’s most surprising interpretations, with his beautiful folk baroque instrumental a version of Art Blakey’s African Blue Note era percussion wigout. “Love Is Pleasing” is a melancholy folk song with a delicate and intricate guitar part. Graham’s voice seems more suited to this track. It flows perfectly into the following “Hornpipe For Harpsichord Played For Guitar.” His strident take on Dylan’s “Down Along The Cove” is an album highlight, Davy’s guitar and interplay with Danny Thompson’s guitar is masterful. Another inspired track is the county blues take on “Hoochie Coochie Man.” Davy and many players crossed paths, playing on the same all-nighter bills at Les Cousins and many others. So “Hornpipe For Harpsichord” has the feel of John Renbourn’s Sir John Alot album and “Stan’s Guitar and Bulgarian Dance” have the raga blues feel of Michael Chapman’s Rainmaker recorded summer 1968 released June 1969. “Pretty Polly” is another shimmering folk psych masterpiece. Graham’s guitar shimmers and chimes with atmosphere and his vocal is a delight. Graham’s “I Am A Rock” has the voice further back in the mix than the Simon and Garfunkel version. It is delivered with passion and conviction, another anthem for the world weary travelling folk troubadour.

Davy Graham was a staggering guitar player and a performer interpreter rather than than a writer. The sleeve notes detail the sources and his influences, sometimes his is a heartfelt close copy sung with love and sometimes his take is so Grahamesque and far from the original you can only marvel at his creativity and vision. With its transition from the earlier trio albums to a looser guitar led raga influenced wild folk feel this is one of my favourite Davy Graham albums. Despite being an obviously virtuosic player, he isn’t showy or flash, there is no noodling, some of the tracks are short, where other later guitarists might have showboated stretching out in the groove Graham says what he has to say then stops.