The Death Whisperer Series

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Saturday, February 4, 2012

Davy Graham & Sergio Aligheri Poderi Del Bello Ovile

We got a foot of snow last night and expect 6-8 more inches during the day, so it’s a good day to sit by a fire with a glass of excellent wine and listen to one of the most influential figures in folk guitar music, none other than the great Davy Graham. Graham was born in Hinckley, Leicestershire, England to a Guyanese mother and a Scottish father. He never studied music theory, but self taught himself to play the piano and harmonica. Then, at the age of 12, he took up the classical guitar. As a teenager, he was greatly influenced by a folk guitar player named Steve Benbow, who had traveled widely with the British army and whose guitar style was influenced by Moroccan music.

Davy is best known for his pioneering use of the DADGAD tuning, which is widely used by fingerstyle guitarists today. Bert Jansch, John Renbourn, Martin McCarthy, Paul Simon, and Jimmy Page were strongly influenced by his style and music. At the age of 19, Graham wrote what is probably his most famous composition, the acoustic guitar solo “Anji”, named after his then girlfriend. The tune spread through generations and has become a rite of passage for acoustic guitarists. It has a quirky rhythm with a haunting, beautiful melody. The hardest part in playing it is that there are two beats to every bass note instead of the usual one. It’s one of my favorite acoustic tunes.

Graham was never interested in fame and fortune but had a childlike, obsessive enthusiasm for music that never left him until his death in 2008. He would give a free private concert just for the asking. His spontaneity made him unpredictable. In the late 1960s, he was booked for a tour of Australia, but when his plane stopped in Bombay for an hour, he changed plans and spent the next six months wandering around India. Through his wanderings, he picked up musical styles from around the world and is often credited with founding world music. You can hear the influence of the Oud on the song “Fakir.” 

He retired in obscurity, engaging in charity work and teaching as well as suffering through periods of drug use. In 2008, he was diagnosed with lung cancer and died on December 15th of that year. So, while those of you on the coasts go about your usual Saturday tasks, we, in the Midwest will be enjoying a day of rest. Can’t go anywhere, so I intend to listen to Davy’s music with a cup of coffee (the wine will come later), and work on my newest thriller novel. Join me, and enjoy Davy Graham.

Since Davy Graham is a world musician, I’m pairing him with a 2009 Sergio Aligheri Poderi Del Bello Ovile from Tuscany. Toscana is perhaps the most famous of all Italian wine regions and is home to some of the world’s most prestigious wines. The Poderi Del Bello Ovile is a blend of 80% Sangiovese, 15% Canaiolo and 5% Ciliegiolo. It’s deep ruby red with ripe berry and herb aromas with notes of spice, coffee, and vanilla. It’s medium dry with good baked fruit flavors of raspberry, cherry, and pepper with fine tannins and a fruity finish. It reminds me of a summer day, which, when one is in the middle of a blizzard, isn’t a bad thing. For those of you in the Midwest, listen to Davy’s music, and if you can’t get to a wine shop because of the snow, grab whatever you’ve got and file this for future reference. Enjoy!


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