“All of us guitarists – Bert Jansch, John Renbourn, Jimmy Page, myself – owe it all to this wonderful musician. Davy never runs out of ideas, and there has not been anyone who has come close.” Ralph McTell
Who would’ve thought that a murder ballad could sound so beautiful! One of my favourite Davy Graham songs is his haunting rendition of Pretty Polly, a traditional arrangement covered by many, including Bob Dylan, Bert Jansch, Sandy Denny, The Byrds and Judy Collins to name a few; but I think that Graham’s version is far superior to any other I’ve heard.
Pretty Polly is a traditional folk song telling the tale of a young woman who falls in love with a man, the wrong man, a man who lures her into the forest where he kills and buries her in a shallow grave. Many variants of the story have the villain as a ship’s carpenter who promises to marry Polly, but murders her when she becomes pregnant. When he goes back to sea, he is haunted by her ghost, confesses to the murder, goes mad and dies.
This track first appeared on Davy Graham’s, Hat, an album which was originally released in 1969 and then later reissued and remasted by Fledg’ling Records in 2005. Listen to the marvellous Pretty Polly above.
Another fantastic Davy Graham album worth checking out is his 1965, Folk Roots, New Routes. Originally released by Decca in 1964, this landmark recording blends the haunting vocals of Shirley Collins with the innovative guitar style of Graham, it’s a great album, one that has been said to have influenced bands such as Fairport Convention and Pentangle. Check out the albums, Nottamun Town below.