Singer Guitarist Ernie Graham was an active part of the British pub rock scene during the first half of the '70s, shuffling between several bands and also recording solo. Graham started out in Belfast during the mid-'60s in professional music when he joined Tony & the Telstars, a local band, as their rhythm guitarist, working as an apprentice auto mechanic during the day. Eventually, Graham and two other members of the band decided to leave Belfast for England, and potentially bigger rewards. It was there that he met guitarist Henry McCullough and the two, on returning to Ireland, began putting together their own band, which was initially known as the People. They saw some serious success in the swinging London music scene of the second half of the 1960s, enough that they were persuaded to change their name to Eire Apparent in a bid for major stardom. That didn't quite happen, but they came close, the psychedelic-flavored band touring with Jimi Hendrix, who also played on their only album, Sunrise (1969).
McCullough left the group -- to form the Grease Band -- and Eire Apparent later dissolved, Graham signed with UA/Liberty as a solo artist, just at the time that the British arm of the label had begun building a new, bold roster of acts representing a new generation of performers. It was all a happy coincidence that brought Graham into the studio backed by no less an act than Brinsley Schwarz, and the result, coupled with Graham's exceptional singing and songs, was one of the finest albums of the entire decade. Ernie Graham failed to sell, however, and soon after, he joined Help Yourself as a guitarist, entering the studio for their second album, Strange Affair, but departing the group before the record was completed.
This is one of the most hauntingly beautiful solo albums to come out of the whole English pub rock scene, and references to Bob Dylan and the Band are appropriate because the rootsy/folk-like intersections with their work are here. It's also a rival to the best work of Brinsley Schwarz, Ducks Deluxe, Eggs Over Easy, et al. (and no surprise -- the Brinsleys played on this album). Opening with the gorgeous, Dylanesque "Sebastian," built on a lyrical acoustic guitar part, Graham reveals himself a songwriter and player of extraordinary sensitivity -- he might easily have been another Alan Hull, or even bigger than that, had he been able to join a band with legs or hold his own career together.
As it is, from that Dylan-like start, he and the Brinsleys deliver a brace of full electric numbers that rival the classic sound of the Band, starting with "So Lonely" -- the roots rock sound here is so authentically American that it will fool lots of listeners about its origins and source. For this album, "The Girl That Turned the Lever" and "For a Little While" are two of the finest working-class/folk-style compositions this side of "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down," and "Blues to Snowy" takes Graham into Lynyrd Skynyrd territory. "Belfast" finally takes listeners to Graham's real roots, in a bracing, fiddle-driven folk-based piece from that side of the Atlantic.
by Bruce Eder
1. Sebastian - 5:34
2. So Lonely - 3:30
3. Sea Fever - 4:54
4. The Girl That Turned The Lever - 6:16
5. For A Little While 6:36
6. Blues To Snowy - 4:01
7. Don´t Want Me Round You - 4:32
8. Belfast - 5:13
Words and Music by Ernie Graham
*Ernie Graham - Guitar, Vocals
*Bob Andrews - Guitar, Keyboards, Vocals
*Dave Charles - Drums, Vocals
*C. Cunningham - Fiddle, Violin
*J. Eichler - Vocals
*Ian Gomm - Guitar, Vocals
*Nick Lowe - Bass, Vocals
*Malcolm Morley - Guitar, Piano, Vocals
*Billy Rankin - Drums
*Brinsley Schwarz - Guitar
*Richard Treece - Guitar
*Ken Whaley - Bass
1969 Eire Apparent - Sunrise (Flawed Gems remaster)