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John Renbourn

Ah, now, he of the mercurial fingers!

I first came across John’s playing surprisingly by way of a solo record and not as part of the Pentangle which is most people’s experience. At my youthful age (in 1972 or ‘3) he represented a totally new way of playing and a new sonic landscape. Anyway, I wanted to learn something about it. I found an Oak Publications’ collection of his guitar pieces and proceeded to study it. Luckily, I could read musical notation, this being a time preceding the invention of guitar tablature. I also had the records which helped in interpretation. However, there was one piece which was favourite which wasn’t in the book and I ruined a record player needle and part of an LP during the course of deciphering it. This was a tune called “Sweet Potato”. It even became part of my repertoire during the days of playing in Europe.

I spent a lot of time with his olde English and Italian dance tune arrangements but these days I stick the jazz influenced stuff. I have never been able to play his tunes with complete assurance or aplomb, but meeting the challenges for me in trying to play them have paid dividends – and also fun when I get close to his intent. He has a lightness and sprightliness of touch that is not in me: I veer more towards the strangulation-into-submission school of playing.

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