Acoustic Nation with Dale Turner: The "Folk Baroque" Stylings of John Renborun

by Dale Turner
Posted May 20, 2015 at 4:16pm

On March 26, 2015, the guitar community lost a legend: progressive folk master and founding member of Pentangle, John Renbourn, a picker who literally did what he loved—playing and teaching—up until the end. (When Renbourn didn’t appear at a concert in Glasgow, Scotland, police checked his nearby home, where he was found deceased from an apparent heart attack.)

With a steady stream of albums issued since 1965, Renbourn is among the first of the influential English fingerstyle “folk baroque” heavyweights (a list which includes Davey Graham, Bert Jansch and Martin Carthy); he had a profound impact on pickers in the U.K.—everyone from Jimmy Page and Richard Thompson to Nick Drake and John Martyn—and abroad (Jorma Kaukonen, Jerry Garcia, Pierre Bensusan and many others).

A fan of music beyond “folk,” Renbourn incorporated classical (in the mid Eighties, he studied composition and orchestration at Dartington Collage of Arts), jazz, blues and “early” music (Medieval, Elizabethan and other eras) into his overall artistic vision. He also played a key role in exposing the Renaissance music of John Dowland to the masses in the late Sixties. Let’s pay our respects to Renbourn with a retrospective look at his influential solo output.

In 1965, around the time he issued his self-titled solo debut, Renbourn met Bert Jansch at a London club. The two became roommates and began playing duo renditions of traditional and contemporary folk songs with an emphasis on counterpoint (creative musical interplay between two or more single-note “voices”). The results are documented in 1966’s Bert and John album, marking the birth of “folk baroque.”

In 1967, Renbourn’s Another Monday hit the streets, an LP containing the bluesy fan favorite “Buffalo,” which informs FIGURE 1. That same year, Renbourn and Jansch made a full-time “band” commitment, forming the seminal “folk-jazz” group Pentangle, a collaboration that continued until 1973.

When Pentangle disbanded, Renbourn prioritized his solo career and released The Hermit, a record ripe with intricate cuts like “Faro’s Rag,” not unlike FIGURE 2, the latest challenge for Renbourn’s hardcore “picking” fan base (the album art even included guitar transcriptions).

Interestingly, Renbourn’s revitalized direction was a direct reaction to having been in a band for several years; after Pentangle, the guitarist realized he’d become a bit out of touch with developments on the solo acoustic guitar scene and felt compelled to contribute in impressive fashion. This pursuit continued throughout the decade, evidenced in 1979’s The Black Balloon title track, a feast of pianistic voicings and strategically placed natural harmonics, like those in FIGURE 3.

In his later years, which included Pentangle reunions, as well as collaborations with Stefan Grossman and Wizz Jones, Renbourn would conjure more impressionistic sounds from his ax, which were chiefly facilitated by his use of unorthodox tunings, such as open G minor, used in the Celtic-flavored title track to The Nine Maidens, which informs FIGURE 4. This tuning is somewhat similar to the D A D G Bb E tuning Renbourn used in the title track to his final album, 2011’s Palermo Snow, akin to FIGURE 5.




dalekkkkk.jpg


Add a Comment
0 Comments

Similar Guitar News

Acoustic Nation with Dale Turner: The Surreal Soundscapes of Singer-Songwriter and Visual Artist Joseph Arthur (7/16/2015)
A rare, personal anecdote: Back in 2000, in Los Angeles’ Conga Room, as a guest of a Virgin Records publicist, I had my mind blown by my friend’s new client, singer-songwriter Joseph Arthur. Performing solo and armed with only an acoustic guita...
Acoustic Nation with Dale Turner: The Soulful Acoustic Work of Warren Haynes (10/7/2015)
Warren Haynes—the eclectic electric-guitar ace behind Gov’t Mule and longtime Allman Brothers Band member and touring guitarist for the Dead—is no stranger to Guitar World readers. His virtuosic, polished blues-rock playing owes just as much to...
Acoustic Nation with Dale Turner: The Inimitable, Soulful Guitar Style of Joseph Spence (6/22/2015)
What happens when you mix bluesy, Robert Johnson–style fingerpicking and tropical “Calypso” grooves, with repertoire consisting of spiritual hymns and sea shanties (maritime work songs, akin to your Pirates of the Caribbean soundtrack faves), su...
Acoustic Nation with Dale Turner: Pat Metheny's Enigmatic Acoustic Work (8/13/2015)
Pat Metheny mastered jazz at an uncommonly young age, touring with legendary vibraphonist Gary Burton while still in his teens. Time spent as a student (and quickly, instructor) at the University of Miami led to many collaborations with bass ico...
Acoustic Nation with Dale Turner: Harnessing a Capo’s Unique, Sparkling Magic (9/11/2015)
A “capo”—short for capotasto, which means “principal fret” in Italian—is a device used to shorten the vibrating lengths of a guitar’s strings; when fitted behind a given fret, it stops the strings at that point, as if you were barring a finger a...
Acoustic Nation with Dale Turner: The Deft Fingerpicking and Odd-Tuning Riffage of Stephen Stills (4/21/2015)
Stephen Stills’ status as a rock legend stems just as much from his singing and songwriting contributions in Buffalo Springfield, Crosby, Stills & Nash (and Young) and his own solo work as it does from his innovative acoustic and electric gu...
Acoustic Nation with Dale Turner: The Dazzling, Altered-Tuned Fingerstyle Work of Laurence Juber (3/25/2015)
These videos and audio files are bonus content related to the May 2015 issue of Guitar World. For the full range of interviews, features, tabs and more, pick up the new issue on newsstands now or at the Guitar World Online Store. When Paul McCar...
Acoustic Nation with Dale Turner: The Complex and Groovy Fingerpicking of Guitarist/Actor Jerry Reed (3/2/2015)
These videos and audio files are bonus content related to the April 2015 issue of Guitar World. For the full range of interviews, features, tabs and more, pick up the new issue on newsstands now or at the Guitar World Online Store. Jerry Reed (1...
Acoustic Nation with Dale Turner: The Essential Acoustic Cuts of Yusuf Islam, a.k.a. Cat Stevens (1/30/2015)
These videos and audio files are bonus content related to the March 2015 issue of Guitar World. For the full range of interviews, features, tabs and more, pick up the new issue on newsstands now or at the Guitar World Online Store. Born Steven D...
Acoustic Nation with Dale Turner: The Sullen Guitar Sounds of Damien Rice (1/4/2015)
These videos and audio files are bonus content related to the February 2015 issue of Guitar World. For the full range of interviews, features, tabs and more, pick up the new issue on newsstands now or at the Guitar World Online Store. It has bee...
Acoustic Nation with Dale Turner: The Celebrated “Harp Harmonics” Technique of Eclectic Guitar Genius Lenny Breau (12/5/2014)
These videos and audio files are bonus content related to the January 2015 issue of Guitar World. For the full range of interviews, features, tabs and more, pick up the new issue on newsstands now or at the Guitar World Online Store. Though the ...
Acoustic Nation with Dale Turner: The Influential Percussive Playing Style of Preston Reed (11/4/2014)
These videos and audio files are bonus content related to the Holiday 2014 issue of Guitar World. For the full range of interviews, features, tabs and more, pick up the new issue on newsstands now or at the Guitar World Online Store. Preston Ree...
Acoustic Nation with Dale Turner: The Simple But Effective Acoustic Inventions of Beck Hansen (10/7/2014)
These videos and audio files are bonus content related to the December 2014 issue of Guitar World. For the full range of interviews, features, tabs and more, pick up the new issue on newsstands now or at the Guitar World Online Store. While Beck...
Acoustic Nation with Dale Turner: Phil Keaggy’s Multifaceted Acoustic Fingerstyle Approaches (9/9/2014)
These videos and audio files are bonus content related to the November 2014 issue of Guitar World. For the full range of interviews, features, tabs and more, pick up the new issue on newsstands now or at the Guitar World Online Store. Guitarist ...
Acoustic Nation with Dale Turner: The Picking Prowess of John McLaughlin (8/13/2014)
These videos and audio files are bonus content related to the October 2014 issue of Guitar World. For the full range of interviews, features, tabs and more, pick up the new issue on newsstands now or at the Guitar World Online Store. In the mid-...