Shirley Collins & Davy Graham - Folk Roots, New Routes
Oct 12, 2020
The History of the Albums - n°235

Although it is more pronounced in the United States, the folk revival period of course extends internationally and specifically in England. This is not a surprise because the English have always offered a rich and seductive folk, which clearly stands out from the others. As I was able to quote in previous episodes on the subject, the Folk Revival period is not only the highlighting of the past, recalling the folk works of yesteryear, it is also a turning point for young artists who propose new directions. Here too, the English followed the same principle. This is why in 1964, the country discovered the magical meeting between Shirley Collins and Davy Graham (or Davey), two influential actors of this period who knew how to propose a beautiful album which, despite its little recognition, remains a particularly important piece for English folk music. And for good reason, Folk Roots, New Routes is one of the most remarkable works of their respective discography, even the best even if it is debatable. If it is not the most innovative on the contrary, it is surely one of the most successful because the alchemy that occurs between the two artists is simply sumptuous. Here is its story.

Let's be gentleman so let's start with Shirley Collins. Born in 1935 in Hasting, she was rocked from a young age by folk music, thanks to her grandfather. Although she has always kept her traditional roots in her music, she is one of the figures of the new English folk breath of the 60s thanks to new singing persectives. Shirley Collins is known to have a powerful and touching voice that is able to bring a new dimension of bluesy and organic music that perfectly reflects her fragile and emotional nature. Before being recognized for her work with her sister Dolly and her collaboration with Davy Graham, Shirley began her career by impressing an American producer who moved to England called Lonax with whom she fell in love. At the end of the 50 s she began her first recordings which gave birth to her first solo albums Sweet England and False True Lovers released in 1959. She then became interested in American folk music, even traveling there, but finally it was when she returned to England that she detached herself from Lomax, developing new and more innovative musical formulas.

On the other side we have the influential musician Davy Graham, born in 1940 in Market Bosworth. Possessing a wider and more open palette than Shirley, Davy Graham has marked the history of the revival of English folk music with his multiple innovations. Rather discreet, Davy Graham possesses a new vision, not hesitating to broaden his curiosity to bring new axes of creativity to many artists thereafter, not limited to the folk sphere and England. While he was already playing music and more instruments before he was even an adult, Davy Graham is a fantastic stringed instrument player, technical and creative. He made his name in the early 60's with his famous and revolutionary composition Angi (or Anji), inspired by Moroccan music, developing a new form that will go down in history forever. Globally he is best known for this, although he is also known for DADGAD tuning (another of his specialties). Angi announces more precisely the birth of the Folk Baroque musical style from which famous musicians such as Bert Jansch from the group The Pentangle will be inspired, not to mention other musical styles that were inspired by it since the mid-60s. In fact, Folk Baroque is a sub genre that is based on many traditional roots mixing with Jazz, Blues and finally has many Western and Oriental styles much older, sometimes going back very far in history. It is characterized by the fingerstyle of the guitarists. That's why, although it is not famous, popular and the style has remained isolated, Davy Graham has made history in a considerable way when others have come to be inspired by it. In the early 60's, like Alexis Korner, Davy Graham represented the essence of the folk/blues revival in England, which allowed him to get some deals and recordings.

Sometimes giving off a Country and Blues aesthetic, Folk Roots, New Routes is a must if you are a folk lover. The meeting of Davy Graham and Shirley Collins who are recording for the first time on Decca is surely one of the clever ideas they had, marking an important page in their career. Composed mainly of traditional songs or songs written by strangers, with a few original compositions, the album Folk Roots, New Routes, more than 50 minutes long, shows a perfect balance between old/new and singer/instrument. It couldn't be better when you think about it. That is to say, Shirley Collins' hypnotizing voice exuded something modern and profoundly human while Davy Graham's acoustic technical work sounded like something so futuristic. It was the perfect equation. You only have to listen to such feats as Here On The Moutain, which still breathes as loud as ever, as if the test of time had not reached it, the Rif Moutain demonstration that transcends me every time I listen to it, transporting Proud Maisrie, or the sumptuous Reynardine. In reality, there is not much that can be reproached to this collection of songs, because the passion never fades. It is the kind of record that one never calculates, but which nevertheless remains an absolute reference
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