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John Renbourn & John Renbourn Group


Country of origin:

England

Type of music generally:

Traditional and neotraditional folk, blues, and medieval music, often instrumental

Status:

Sadly, John Renbourn died in 2015. Final release, Palermo Snow (2011)

See also:

John Renbourn's site

Wikipedia's entry for John Renbourn

The Ectophiles' Guide entries for Pentangle, a group Renbourn played with between 1967 and 1973

Comparisons:

Martin Carthy, though far more blues-oriented; his English folk work is rather like his work with Pentangle, and sometimes like a lighter Steeleye Span or the traditional work of Fairport Convention, but overall his combination of blues and folk feels highly individual

Covers/own material:

Own, arrangements of traditional material, covers of blues classics

General comments:

John Renbourn has long been a favourite of mine. I love his takes on traditional blues, folk, and medieval songs and tunes. Though he's English, much of the music he played early in his career comes from traditional American blues. He's one of the greatest acoustic guitarists around (and has done a series of instructional materials) and has a rather rough voice that is wonderful with the kind of material he chooses. He also has a knack for finding other excellent vocalists to work with.
     He has a long career, encompassing solo work, group work, work with Pentangle, duos with Dorris Henderson, Stefan Grossman, Robin Williamson, and Bert Jansch. (Neile)

Comments about live performance:

I've seen John Renbourn live several times in several different configurations and every time he puts on a lively and captivating show. Not to be missed, especially has he doesn't tour as much as he once did. (Neile)

Recommended first album:

There are all kinds of compilations available nowadays, and I'd recommend any one of them for getting your first taste of his music. My favourites are Vol 1—The Soho Years for his early work, Faro Annie, and Ship of Fools. Sadly I think only Ship of Fools is readily available—but it's one of my all-time favourites, so go for it. (Neile)

Recordings include:

(full discography available at http://www.john-renbourn.com/discography.html)


John Renbourn/Another Monday

Release info:

Both albums originally released separately by Transatlantic in 1966; re-released on 1 cd in 1996—Castle Communications—ESM CD 408, GAS 00003408ESM ACO

Availability:

U.K. or in U.S. as import

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended for blues & folk fans

Group members:

John Renbourn—vocals, guitar

Guest artists:

Bert Jansch—guitar
Jacqui McShee—vocals
Jennifer de Montforte-Jones—oboe

Produced by:

6 of these tracks were produced by Nathan Joseph; no producer listed for the rest

Comments:

From the beginning John Renbourn's guitar work is extraordinary and captivating. His voice is evocative, wonderful for these blues and traditional songs. These are mostly solo, but Bert Jansch joins him for two instrumentals, and Jacqui McShee sings on 3 of the songs from the second album (both later join him in the band, Pentangle). This is a wonderful, long, collection of songs and tunes. (Neile)

Sir John Alot Of Merrie England...

Release info:

1968; re-released 1992—Shanachie Records—97021

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Recommended

Group members:

John Renbourn—guitar

Guest artists:

Terry Cox—finger cymbals, African drums, glockenspiel
Ray Warleigh—flute

Produced by:

Nathan Joseph

Comments:

This is an instrumental album of blues, folk, and medieval tunes, featuring John Renbourn's gorgeous fingerpicking guitar style. His skill is such that even vocal-focused me loves this disc. It's really lovely. (Neile)

The Lady And The Unicorn

Release info:

1970; re-released c. 1992—Shanachie Records

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Recommended

Comments:

This is rather like Sir John Alot... part II, an instrumental collection of blues, folk, and medieval tunes. Really lovely. (Neile)

Faro Annie

Release info:

1972—Reprise/Warner—MS 2082; re-released 2002—Castle Music—CMRCD534

Availability:

Re-released in the UK

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended for folk lovers

Group members:

John Renbourn—vocals, guitars, harmonica, sitar

Guest artists:

Pete Dyer—harmonica on 2 tracks
Dorris Henderson—vocals on 3 tracks
Terry Cox—drums on 2 tracks
Sue Draheim—fiddle on 3 tracks
Danny Thompson—bass on 2 tracks

Produced by:

Bill Leader

Comments:

This is widely considered to be a classic album, and is one of my favourite John Renbourn albums. It's a collection of mostly bluesy-sounding traditional American tunes, and the arrangements are simple but effective. John is the singer here (with some gorgeous backup by Dorris Henderson)—and his rough voice is wonderfully evocative for these songs. This is one of those albums I could play forever. I love it—it's inspired. (Neile)

A Maid in Bedlam

The John Renbourn Group

Release info:

1977; re-released 1987—Shanachie Records—79004

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

John Renbourn—guitars, vocals
Tony Roberts—vocals, flute, recorders, oboe, piccolo
Jacqui McShee—vocals
Sue Draheim—fiddle, vocals
Keshav Sathe—tabla, finger cymbals

Comments:

This is a stunning collection of medieval and folk songs and some tunes, and the vocals are lovely with the mix of John Renbourn, Jacqui McShee's pure tones, and Sue Draheim, and the instrumentation is lovely, too—inclusion of the tabla gives these a remarkable energy. A great collection of material that really comes to life. I've loved this album and played it often in the years since we first got it. A classic. (Neile)

The Enchanted Garden

The John Renbourn Group

Release info:

1980; re-released 1990—Shanachie Records—79074

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Jacqui McShee—vocals
John Renbourn—vocals, guitar, swalamandala
Tony Roberts—vocals, flute, recorders, sopranino, descant, tenor, whistle, conesmuse, cymbal, bass clarinet, glockenspiel, swalamandala
John Molineux—vocals, 4- & 5-string dulcimers, mandolin, whistle, fiddle, bowed psaltery, spoons
Keshav Sathe—tabla, finger cymbals
Glen Tommy—snare drum

Produced by:

John Renbourn

Comments:

This one leans even more toward the medieval than A Maid in Bedlam, but it another wonderful collection of folk and medieval tunes and songs. The tunes and songs are lively and mournful by turns and the collection as a whole is truly delightful. (Neile)

Live in America

The John Renbourn Group

Release info:

1982—Flying Fish Records—FF70103

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

John Renbourn—guitar, vocal
Jacqui McShee—vocal
Tony Roberts—flute, krumhorn, Northumbrian small pipes, harmony vocal
John Molineux—dulcimer, mandolin, fiddle, harmony vocal, lead vocal on 2 tracks
Keshav Sathe—tabla

Produced by:

Mitch Greenhill

Comments:

This is as clearly recorded as any studio recording, with the added verve of it being a live performance. Highly recommended, and probably a good introduction to the John Renbourn Group's work, as it is a long selection, originally a two-record set. (Neile)

The Nine Maidens

Release info:

1985—Flying Fish—FF70378

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended for guitar lovers

Group members:

John Renbourn—guitars, drum, cittern, recorder

Guest artists:

Remi Froissart—high-strung guitar on 1 track
Toby Pedley—recorders on 2 tracks
Tony Roberts—Northumbrian small pipes and sopranino recorder on 1 track
Jeff Merrell—fiddle on 1 track
Joe Trancock—bodhran on 1 track
Ben Burrow—congas on 1 track
Jules Diggle—tambourine on 1 track, congas on 1 track

Produced by:

John Renbourn

Comments:

An exquisite, evocative instrumental album mostly of John Renbourn's recordings. Highly recommended for anyone who likes to listen to the guitar. (Neile)

Vol 1—The Soho Years

Release info:

1986—Transatlantic—TRACD 603

Availability:

Out of print; now there is a similar compilation called The Transatlantic Years

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

John Renbourn—vocals, guitar

Produced by:

"Lord Franklin" produced by Bill Leader; no producer listed for other tracks

Comments:

This is a great collection of John Renbourn's early solo material, and includes some of my favourite songs of his from Faro Annie, like "Kokomo Blues", "Buffalo Skinners" and "White House Blues". It also has his classic version of "Lord Franklin". A great collection. Since this is out of print, I recommend the quite similar collection, The Transatlantic Years which is still available. (Neile)

John Renbourn's Ship of Fools

Release info:

1988—Flying Fish Records—FF70466

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

John Renbourn—guitar, vocals, cittern
Maggie Boyle—vocal, whistle, bodhran, flute, bodhran
Tony Roberts—flute, alto flute, clarinet, bass clarinet, Northumbrian pipes, recorders, racket, soprano saxophone
Steve Tilson—guitar, mandolin, vocal, arpeggione, Spanish guitar, rhythm guitar

Guest artists:

Mitch Greenhill—percussion, cabasa

Produced by:

Mitch Greenhill

Comments:

This is one of my favourite traditional folk albums ever—I've played it to death ever since I first got it in 1988. It's just a really lovely collections of songs and tunes, played by skillful players and vocalists whose voices can sound yearning or full of verve. A true delight. I can't say enough good things about this one. (Neile)

Will The Circle Be Unbroken

Release info:

1995—Castle Communications (England)—CCS CD 429

Availability:

U.K.

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended for anyone interested in a taste of early John Renbourn

Group members:

John Renbourn—guitars, vocals

Guest artists:

Bert Jansch on 2 tracks Pentangle on 4 tracks

Produced by:

Comments:

This is a collection of material from John Renbourn's early recordings, c. 1966-1972. Some wonderful songs here, most of which are duplicated on other collections, but this has some that aren't on any others that I could find and that was enough to me to buy this one. (Neile)

So Clear

Release info:

1997—Snapper Music—SMD CD 152

Availability:

U.K.

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Comments:

This is a collection that takes samples from John Renbourn's various early albums and projects with other people, including some of his work with Pentangle. A great way to get so much good music in one place. (Neile)

Traveller's Prayer

Release info:

1998—Shanachie Records—78018

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Recommended

Group members:

John Renbourn—guitar

Guest artists:

Connor Byrne—flute
Maire Breathnach—fiddle
Joe McKenna—uilleann pies, whistle
Dick Lee—clarinets, recorder
Bill Kemp—percussion
The Voice Squad: (Gerry Cullen, Phil Callery, Fran McPhail)—vocals
Mariead Ni Dhomhnaill—vocals

Produced by:

John Renbourn

Comments:

John Renbourn is an amazing guitarist, and I love his take on traditional songs and tunes. This isn't my favourite of his more recent recordings, but any John Renbourn is welcome to my ears. This is mostly instrumental, but has some songs. (Neile)

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DISCLAIMER: Comments and reviews in the Ectophiles' Guide are excerpted from the ecto mailing list or volunteered by members of the list. They are the opinions of music enthusiasts, not professional music critics.

Entry last updated 2015-06-14 15:58:57.
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