Folk: Two godfathers of fingerpicking
WIZZ JONES AND JOHN RENBOURN FAMOUS GROUSE HOUSE, EDINBURGH
Wednesday 02 September 1998
Best known, ignominiously, as a footnote in Rod Stewart biographies (they busked together long ago), Wizz Jones is in other ways a "Sixties success story. Co-founder of that era's folk-blues boom alongside the altogether more enigmatic, druggy genius Davy Graham, Jones pioneered a version of the hippy lifestyle, eschewing the sex and drugs aspects of those he influenced, and is consequently still fighting fit - in body, mind and musical quality.
Wringing every drop of emotion out of deceptively simple finger-style patterns with a spasmodic physicality that makes his entire guitar a tremolo unit, Jones's material reflected both his positive idealism, his delta blues influences and his family values - unpretentious but moving songs for his late father ("Burma Star") and teenage daughter ("Lucky The Man") were compelling and rang true.
Less of a songwriter or singer, much more of a technician than Jones, John Renbourn's own set was effortlessly accomplished. Perhaps surprisingly - given that his first solo album in 12 years, Traveller's Prayer, has just been released - it was a nostalgia-focussed set, with old Pentangle faves "Watch The Stars" and his tribute to seafaring folly, "Lord Franklin", rubbing shoulders with adaptations of piano jazz material from Randy Weston and Abdullah Ibrahim.
Renbourn's wry banter lived up to his post-Pentangle reputation as a bon viveur and wit, but he's been peddling similar concert sets for years, albeit with improvisation well to the fore. So it was particularly thrilling to see the largely unrehearsed duo set as a finale.
Archie Fisher's "Mountain Man", Bert Jansch's "Fresh As A Sweet Sunday Morning" and the poignant "National Seven" - a blues arrangement that Renbourn borrowed rather heavily from Jones, his old mentor, for his 1965 debut - gave Renbourn a rare opportunity to re-live his fluid, soaring lead guitar licks of yore and it went down a treat with the audience.
A clearly unscripted crack at Davy Graham's immortal "Angi" seemed an appropriate way to close a show that had balanced unashamed nostalgia with subtly reproven musical worth.
To mark Tolstoy's 186th birthdaybooks
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