John Renbourn THE ATTIC TAPES

Riverboat Records

Essential early work from seminal folk star

John Renbourn, who sadly died earlier this year, was a key member of the 60s folk revival. Together with Martin Carthy, Wizz Jones, Bert Jansch and above all Davy Graham, they revolutionised acoustic guitar playing. In the liner notes to this album, written by Renbourn himself shortly before he died, he describes his playing as just ‘plunking’, but he was a master of the guitar from an early age and you can hear the evidence on this lovingly produced collection.

Retrieved from a box of tapes in an attic (hence the title) belonging to Mac Macleod, who also appears on one track, it’s a mixture of live and studio, traditional folk, blues, originals and covers and chronicles a time where people were perhaps less worried about pigeonholing and just played what they wanted to play. So it opens with Renbourn’s take on Davy Graham’s classic Anji followed by his version of Jackson C. Frank’s Blues Run The Game, moves on to his own instrumental Rosslyn and then goes to a duet with Beverly Kuettner (later Martyn) on Picking Up The Sunshine. The recording quality is variable and the performances loose and unpolished, at least by today’s standards but Renbourn’s skill – never showy, always in the service of the song – and his passion for the music shine through.

Renbourn would go on to bigger things with Pentangle and have a 50 year career that spanned genres but here you can hear his roots and his young, uninhibited style. Complete with liner notes by the man himself, this is a delight and an essential album. Jeremy Searle

www.worldmusic.net/johnrenbourn

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