Last week came the sad news that guitarist John Renbourn had died at age 70.
A great number of tremendous guitar players were born in Great Britain during and just after World War II. Some of them — such as Keith Richards and Eric Clapton — became very famous. Others, such as Renbourn, didn’t become rock and roll kings, nor obviously did they want to. They were great, however.
Renbourn was close friends with Bert Jansch, another great guitarist and fellow co-founder of the important group Pentangle. Other great acoustic (or mostly acoustic) guitarists of this era include Richard Thompson and Davy Graham. I am not knowledgeable enough to draw the lines between them all. In general, they drew on American blues, European and eastern influences. They incorporated styles that are centuries old and were not generally, to that point, thought of as modern guitar music.
I obviously don’t know enough to even scratch the surface. My fondness for Renbourn is very focused. In my opinion, his album “Faro Annie,” which was released in 1971, is one of the greatest ever. My brother owned it and I would listen when I visited him at college. To be honest about it, I am not even sure that it’s one of his major works.
The Brits did more to introduce and in some cases reintroduce the world to the old blues than the Americans did. Faro Annie is squarely in that tradition.
Many of the songs are deeply American. “White House Blues” tells the story of William McKinley’s assassination and Theodore Roosevelt’s rise to the presidency. “Little Sadie” is the tale of a man who kills a woman and makes a run to get away. (Johnny Cash sings another version of the same song under the name “Cocaine Blues”.) “Buffalo Skinners” describes the lives of the men who killed all the buffaloes.
The only cut that isn’t directly from the album is “Kokomo Blues.” The song is on Faro Annie, but the version here is a recent live performance. I am sorry for the great volume jump.
Wikipedia was used to write this post.[/column]