Rychard Carrington reports on Davey Graham –The Junction, Cambridge, 7 Apr 2007

Artist Visiting Cambridgeshire
Davey Graham is best known for pioneering the DADGAD-tuning folk baroque style of guitar-playing. He was a crucial character on the British folk guitar scene of the mid-60s, which was very in vogue just before Dylan's new-found electricity and The Beatles' new-found sophistication established rock's domination. But the folk guitarists contributed the key figure of the beat troubadour to the 60s underground. Graham is second-best known as a colourful example of such a character, wayward in a classically 1960s fashion. Thirdly, the picture of a huge sombrero, with Graham's head underneath it, on the cover of his 1967 album Hat gets my vote for the best-album cover art of all-time.

So Graham arrived on stage at The Junction bearing quite a reputation (but, alas, no hat). What would he do with it (the reputation, not the...)? In fact, he gave the impression that his relationship was with his music, that audience's expectations were no concern of his. Although known as an instrumentalist, he actually sang a lot, often a cappella. His repertoire was very eclectic, very international. Folk baroque guitar featured only sporadically. Those expecting the unexpected got what they expected when he suddenly launched into a series of tongue-twisters, followed by music hall anecdotes. Later in the set he repeated a couple of the tongue-twisters, for reasons obscure to all but him. For the encore Graham sang a brief song, accompanied on guitar by support act and tour manager Mark Pavey rather than himself. It might have seemed a strange ending to a concert by a guitar virtuoso, but by that stage the audience had got accustomed to Graham's individual ways.

One could say that the performance fell between two stools, in that the guitar-playing was not of such consistently high quality to match Graham's 60s performances, nor was his manner gloriously bizarre, just somewhat odd. But I imagine that, while audience satisfaction on the night may have been uncertain, this show will linger in the mind long after smoother performances have faded into recesses of vague memory. Graham remains an instinctively original and intensely engaged musician. His presence was a treat to be savoured, on his own terms.

Writer: Rychard Carrington