John Renbourn: Live in Kyoto 1978 review – A delightful solo performance

Fri, Jun 22, 2018, 05:00


Live in Kyoto 1978

John Reborn

Drag City


It would be wrong to oversell this delightful, hitherto unknown, snapshot of a single solo performance in a Kyoto coffeehouse 40 years ago, but it does remind us how mighty the British acoustic guitarist John Renbourn was.

Renbourn, who died three years ago aged 70, is mainly remembered for his work with fellow guitar stylist Bert Jansch in seminal folk band Pentangle in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

His often brilliant, frequently instrumental, solo work mined similar ground – folk, traditional (including Irish), blues, jazz and early music. He was as comfortable with a tune by blues great Rev Gary Davis as he was with a medieval dance by William Byrd or a piece by jazz giant Charlie Mingus.

The key was his measured and tasteful picking and his understanding and love of music period.

This is evident in these 13 recordings by Satoro Fujii whose archive was discovered posthumously. The mood is warm and informal, the audience patient and enthusiastic. It was clearly a good night.

Renbourn’s understated and engagingly limited vocals grace classics like Candyman and I Know My Babe, but it is his sweet picking on these and instrumentals such as Peacock Rag and Transfusion that sets the heart racing.