Having resented it for decades when people have told me that I’m ‘influenced’ by Bert Jansch – I’m sure I’ve been influenced by many people, and I’d love to be able to play some of Bert’s songs, though there are only a couple I’ve ever sung – but I haven’t intentionally copied anyone in many decades. While I’m still in awe of his guitar-playing, I’m a songwriter with my own voice and guitar technique, and I tend to think that when people want to pigeonhole you as ‘copying’ someone else, that’s either just laziness or a bad case of ‘you’re no better than me, you’re just a copyist…’
Anyway, I was rather surprised to revisit this and notice that the vocal here was quite Jansch-ish in places. Especially as Bert didn’t actually do a lot of blues, that I remember: maybe I’d been listening to the album (‘Nicola’) on which he did do a lyrically weird version of Corinna/Weeping Willow and a slightly more conventional ‘Come Back Baby’. That said, the guitar here sounds quite John Renbourn/Wizz Jones, rather than Jansch – I think I hear a little bit of Al Jones there, too – but with some tropes I’m pretty sure are all mine … But I’m certainly not ashamed of it, and probably couldn’t match it nowadays.
The words are quite blues-pastiche, but not based on any older song in particular. Not a song I’d write now, but I think it works OK. Recorded on domestic equipment in the early 80s, though I’m pretty sure I was already singing it in the mid-70s, around the time I started singing much more of my own stuff. .
I don’t have technical skills to generate sophisticated animations and such, and I’d rather not flood the world with too many live videos of variable quality. But some recordings seem to fit OK with a series of photographs. Well, to my ear and eye, anyway. ‘Painting the Desert’ is actually an improvised slide guitar piece accompanied by photographs from a drive through the Painted Desert in Arizona, from when we followed up a work trip to the Bay Area and San Diego with a version of the Grand Circle Road Trip including Zion, Bryce Canyon, Grand Canyon, as well as Sedona, Oak Canyon and so on. I have a feeling that I’ll eventually find a use for some of the photos from those attractions, too. In the meantime…
While I’m often accused of trying to sound like Bert Jansch, it was actually Dav(e)y Graham I wanted to sound like before I realized I was a better songwriter than guitarist and concentrated on the songs instead of instrumental technique.
‘Blues for Davy’ is a short guitar piece I used to play a lot in the 80s, trying to get some of that jazz feel that informed so much of what he did, though it was actually quite a formal piece. This is an extended version with a lot more improvisational content. While I don’t think my rheumaticky hands will ever let me call myself a jazz guitarist with any degree of conviction, it worked much better than I expected, especially for a spur-of-the-moment one-take version. I might come back to it adding a second guitar at some point.
I’m not sure I’ll ever be brave enough to play it live, though.
A cleaner recording than the previous audio version.
And here’s a video, this time played on electric guitar.
This is a version with just basic guitar:
This is the same version with some overdubbed bouzouki: an instrument I’ve only recently added to my arsenal, so not very well executed, but I think it might go quite well with a bit of work. Maybe different lead instruments for each break…
Not sure the world needs my version of this, but playing with an arrangement anyway, in case I ever take the resonator out in public again… Recorded by Charley Patton and Bertha Lee in 1934. There’s a better than halfway-decent version by Jo-Ann Kelly and Tony McPhee, too. There’s a John Renbourn song with the same name, by the way, but that’s very different.