Bert Jansch performing a number of songs on Norwegian Television with Norwegian musician Finn. This series, called “Blanda Drops” (Mixed Sweets) was shown on the only Norwegian TV channel NRK
Gwenifer Raymond has a PhD in astrophysics, lives in Brighton and designs video games for a living. No ordinary human, she also has mercury in her fingertips. You can just about see it glisten as she plays guitar on There Will Be Blood for an introductory 2016 acoustic session. By early 2018, the song had evolved into Sometimes There’s Blood, and a video treatment with creepy Victoriana and taxidermy. Such is the Welsh-born Raymond’s very British take on a niche form known as the American primitive style, where guitars embark on flowing instrumental extemporisations, often ending up somewhere very eastern, sometimes sounding like Indian ragas.
Having discovered the guitar aged eight, when her mother gave her a cassette of Nirvana’s Nevermind, Raymond traced the idols of her idols back to the Delta blues, and then sideways into this folk form. Her immersive debut album pays tribute to the Delta and Appalachia at the same time, on the banjo workouts Bleeding Finger Blues and Idumea, and raises a battered hat to the godfather of the primitive scene on Requiem for John Fahey. Throughout, Raymond takes this roiling, rhythmic traditional sound and stamps her own imprimatur on it.
Davy Graham is one of the most influential figures in the 1960s British folk revival. His finger picking inspired Bert Jansch, John Renbourn, Martin Carthy, John Martyn, and Jimmy Page.
Graham is probably best known for his acoustic instrumental composition, “Anji.” Bert Jansch recorded this song on his first self titled album in 1965. John Renbourn also recorded it, as did Paul Simon, on the Simon & Garfunkel album Sounds of Silence.
So what does Richard Thompson, one of music’s most unique, gifted and eclectic singer/songwriters — and lest we forget, an astonishingly good guitar player and oh yes, also an Officer of the Order of the British Empire bestowed by the Queen herself — do for thrills as he approaches 70?
I mean, this is a guy who who the L.A. Times said was “the best rock songwriter after Dylan and the best guitarist since Hendrix,” a guy who is still so sharp, vital and dynamic, playing and writing music as powerfully as ever, as evidenced by 2015’s Still as well as his recent Acoustic Classics Vol II + Rarities release, and has a record in the can that’s due out this summer. With a catalog behind him comprised of 14 solo studio and two live albums — in addition to six studio albums credited to Richard and ex-wife Linda Thompson, and five studio albums as a member of folk rock pioneers Fairport Convention — Thompson can still churn out his one-in-a-billion type of folk-tinged troubadour rock at a time when many musicians are waning.
But at the moment, actually for about the last year, he’s chosen a different type of art that many musicians try — U2, John Mellencamp, Jimmy Buffett and Matthew Sweet come to mind — to see if their brand of expression will translate seamlessly to the stage. Knowing the brilliant and evocative imagery that Thompson conveys with his songs, it is sure to be something very special indeed.
“I’ve been working on a musical play for a while,” Thompson told me as he prepared for a solo acoustic tour that brings him to the Birchmere on April 4th. “I’m quite excited by the prospect of it. It’s a dream I had, kind of a ‘Greek tragedy’ in the sense that a family is faced with an impossible dilemma, that whichever way they jump, there is pain and disaster. I’m enjoying the music. I think the music’s very strong. I think the story’s very strong, but it is kind of dark.”