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John Renbourn in Dallas - Review

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JedMarum 15 Apr 02 - 09:29 AM
Pete Jennings 15 Apr 02 - 10:09 AM
Jim the Bart 15 Apr 02 - 10:29 AM
JedMarum 15 Apr 02 - 10:37 AM
Wesley S 15 Apr 02 - 11:23 AM
JedMarum 15 Apr 02 - 12:02 PM
JedMarum 15 Apr 02 - 12:03 PM
Fortunato 15 Apr 02 - 01:31 PM
Pete Jennings 15 Apr 02 - 07:20 PM
Mooh 15 Apr 02 - 07:56 PM
JedMarum 18 Apr 02 - 12:27 AM
Grab 18 Apr 02 - 08:20 AM
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Subject: John Renbourn in Dallas - Review
From: JedMarum
Date: 15 Apr 02 - 09:29 AM

John Renbourn performed last night in Dallas at a local pub called The Emerald Mist. He played to a small enthusistic crowd of 50 or so, and introduced a fine young guitar player from London by the name of Clive (somebody or other - sorry, I'm not too good with names)! Renbourn played a warm and relaxed first set on his own, then turned the show over to Clive. After a 20 minute break and John returned solo for 20 minutes or so then ended the performance with a superb duo set.

I have long appreciated the skill of this innovative guitarist and was excited to have the chance to him live, in a small venue. I was impressed with John's casual, relaxed and humorous manner - he carried himself like he was a local guy in for a short drink and a few songs ... and I was surprised by his stage presence - sat on stage, mic sorta near his face, speaking head down, or head up, smiling, talking as if he and we were all sitting in his living room - no need for mics and wires sorta thing! The room was absoultely hushed, except for John - so this nonchalant technique worked just fine. John's "matured" since last I'd seen him, in pictures, in the folk revival days of the 70's ... what's left of his near shoulder length hair is scraggily grey. He has the look of your pleasant mannered neighbor down the road, you know the one you might think of as the aging hippie in up-to-date Lands End attire. John mingled happily with the locals, was quite approachable - and seemed to enjoy the people contact. And the music was superb!

He played a wide variety of tunes and songs; original and traditional. Old favorites from his earlier days and new tunes with new flavors. We were treated to ancient melodies with strong jazz or blues seasonings ... whistful guitar tunings and undisciplined rhythyms. I heard many of the licks and modes of John Renbourn from days gone by, the ones that attracted me to his playing so many years ago - but I certainly heard much more. I heard the result of many years a master - the continued innovations and matured style creating new an interesting sounds ... new ideas for old music. And variety. Such variety!

John's voice has aged, has lost its refined edges - but his singing was almost 'placeholder' in the presentation - that is, an alternate phase of the song, used only briefly to tell some of the story. In this manner, he used his voice well. He also presented a bit of story and/or history for each introduction, and kept a warm, off handed humorous dialogue running all evening. It was a show that anyone would have enjoyed very much - but finger style guitar lovers, or John Renbourn fans (like me) were in for a real treat!

I have to talk a little bit about John's 'tour mate' Clive. I am sorry I didn't catch his last name, because this guy was terrific. John introduced him as the best guitar player he's ever heard, I'd have to say Clive is as good as any I've ever heard, also. He was a young man (maybe late 20's) with a confident, relaxed and humorous stage presence (a good fit with John). Clive was also a fingerstyle guitarist, like John - but used a flat pick occasionally when he and John played together. But Clive presented a high energy set of music - still traditionally based, several originals, a few blues standards - and all with some very very innovative style. Clive is truly a magnificent player - his 'chops' or finger skills are uniquely able. He used right hand harmonics and even right handed fretting/pull off picking while his left hand was doing the same - almost a four handed guitar playing sound, if you know what I mean. But none of this incredible technique was for show. Even the guiatr players in the audience quickly forgot the outrageous things the guy coudl do with his fingers, and were wowed by the sound! Clive created some beautiful sounds with his guitar. He whipped up a driving surf of rhythyms with power and grace - and then floated melodies and harmonies gently over the wave. His music was wild and beautiful ... alternately subtle and pretty. I hope to hear more from this guy.

The end of the show was amazing. Two masters, hard at work - enjoying the craic, surfing the tunes with reckless abandon. They played a few blues numbers, and a reworked John Renbourn original. It was a thrill to watch them ride the wave of each song; fairly unrehearsed, (John was actually occasionally reading sheet music for one of the pieces) - and daring each other to new heights. Both solo performers, in the main - neither had total regard for absolute beat, yet neither had any problem remerging in perfect time with the other from any divergence in time. It was as if both were flaunting the beat, using it as a pole around which either could dance and return to at any moment! Both living dangerously. The final song, the encore - was kicked off with long intro, played around the melody. It finally and inevitably turned into Gershwin's Summertime. What a treat! Renbourn and Clive alternated verse/chorus solos and switched seamlessly with one another for three or four times through the song. Both displaying creative virtuosity, both leading the audience verse after verse to new aurel pleasures ...

When the show finished, they'd play a little over two hours. Two standing ovations from the crowd or happy listeners, and time enough left to taste some of the Pub's fine single malt ... I think John and Clive will remember their time at my local Pub. I am certain we'll remember them!


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Subject: RE: John Renbourn in Dallas - Review
From: Pete Jennings
Date: 15 Apr 02 - 10:09 AM

Jed

That would have been Clive Carroll and you're right, he's great. See www.oldbridgemusic.com, Chris Newman's site, for more info on Clive.

Pete


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Subject: RE: John Renbourn in Dallas - Review
From: Jim the Bart
Date: 15 Apr 02 - 10:29 AM

Thanks for the review. It's great to see that some torches get passed along just to flare brighter.

I like the surf images, too. Real music can be "oceanic" in a lot of ways. In turns, placid and ruminative, or dangerous and whelming. It has always amazed me to see true masters "ride the wild surf", particularly in those moments when you know the music is taking the player where it wants to go. It's great to hear that one of the venerable ones is still doing it. I am always filled with pleasure (and more than a little jealous) to see a young'un reaching for it(geez, why don't I practice more?).

Hope they come to Chicago. Bart


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Subject: RE: John Renbourn in Dallas - Review
From: JedMarum
Date: 15 Apr 02 - 10:37 AM

Carroll!! You're correct Pete, and thanks!

Yes Bart - I love watching these two masters dancing around the beat, living dangerously with their play, streching their limits, racing ahead to express an idea and returning to the point they both know (the beat) without even a wince or a worry, even taking pleasure at the excursion! You could see they joy of the chase in their faces, and the chuckle they got from each little foray! What a treat.

And certainly the baton being passed. John made that clear with his introduction of Clive - and it was obvious that the youth burned brightly and soared amazingly to brand new heights. Equally obvious was the measured mellow and mature work of the old master. I think John and Clive enojyed the show as much as anyone in the room!

Sorry for the typos and spelling errors - all. I didn't bother to proof it before I hit "submit" but I trust y'all forgive me!


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Subject: RE: John Renbourn in Dallas - Review
From: Wesley S
Date: 15 Apr 02 - 11:23 AM

I'll echo what Jed had to say. I saw John about 18 months earlier in Dallas opening for Pierre Bensusan. Amazing show. A very easy man to talk to. One audience member was asking John about his guitar pickup after the show and John said - Just come back stage so you can see it properly.


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Subject: RE: John Renbourn in Dallas - Review
From: JedMarum
Date: 15 Apr 02 - 12:02 PM

Interesting you bring up the issue of the pick-up, Wesley! I noticed both guitarists last night used Fishman Rare Earth pick-ups. Both also played small bodied, OM-type models (Renbourn appeared to be playing a custom Martin, and Carrol a custom luthier, perhaps a Collings). Renbourn also had a mic near his guitar, but his sound was almost entirely pick-up. Clive did not have guitar mic near him, but may have had a Fishman blender - in any case, hsi sound was mostly coil pick-up too, if he did have a blender. These coil pick ups are amazing. They do sound electronic, and can even sound like an electric guitar, at times - but they have a much sweeter, acoustic guitar quality to them, too. I am impressed with the Rare Earth pick-ups, and find them an interesting compromise. Both used their electronics masterfully, and with refined taste. I'd be willing to bet most people in the audience hardly noticed the difference between the sound they got live from their pick-ups and the sound you'd hear from a straight mic in a studio environment. Acoustic guitar lovers would never complain about their subtle use of electronics.


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Subject: RE: John Renbourn in Dallas - Review
From: JedMarum
Date: 15 Apr 02 - 12:03 PM

Interesting you bring up the issue of the pick-up, Wesley! I noticed both guitarists last night used Fishman Rare Earth pick-ups. Both also played small bodied, OM-type models (Renbourn appeared to be playing a custom Martin, and Carrol a custom luthier, perhaps a Collings). Renbourn also had a mic near his guitar, but his sound was almost entirely pick-up. Clive did not have guitar mic near him, but may have had a Fishman blender - in any case, hsi sound was mostly coil pick-up too, if he did have a blender. These coil pick ups are amazing. They do sound electronic, and can even sound like an electric guitar, at times - but they have a much sweeter, acoustic guitar quality to them, too. I am impressed with the Rare Earth pick-ups, and find them an interesting compromise. Both used their electronics masterfully, and with refined taste. I'd be willing to bet most people in the audience hardly noticed the difference between the sound they got live from their pick-ups and the sound you'd hear from a straight mic in a studio environment. Acoustic guitar lovers would never complain about their subtle use of electronics.


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Subject: RE: John Renbourn in Dallas - Review
From: Fortunato
Date: 15 Apr 02 - 01:31 PM

I enjoyed your review, Jed. Surely a treat to see those guys in a small room with a small, attentive audience. cheers, Chance


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Subject: RE: John Renbourn in Dallas - Review
From: Pete Jennings
Date: 15 Apr 02 - 07:20 PM

Slight thread creep, but what the hell, everybody else seems to do it. I've used a Rare Earth blender for a couple of years. It has a humbucker under the strings and an internal mic. There's a small rotating control which adjusts the blend between the pickup and the mic, and I fid it's best to have about a 70:30 mix respectively. It's a subtle difference from 100% pickup, but it makes the sound more "acoustic" and less piezo-electric and also avoids feedback problems. And it can be used on more than one guitar, if you don't mind the cable hanging out of the sound-hole. I used it on my Martin HJ28 at a gig last Friday night, through a small PA, and it sounded fantastic.

On his website, www.johnrenbourn.com, John says he doesn't like permanently-mounted pickups. I've been a fan of his since about 1967, (big five-O on Sunday!), and I stopped trying to play like him along time ago. But at least the trying helped me develop my own style, such as it is.

Pete


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Subject: RE: John Renbourn in Dallas - Review
From: Mooh
Date: 15 Apr 02 - 07:56 PM

Jed,

John was here (Goderich Ontario) last September for a solo show and was just as you describe. Afterwards in the pub you feel like he's an old friend though you've only been aquainted for a couple of hours. I don't know if I've ever seen such a relaxed and comfortable performer who still manages to totally capture his audience.

Thanks for the memories...

Peace, Mooh.


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Subject: RE: John Renbourn in Dallas - Review
From: JedMarum
Date: 18 Apr 02 - 12:27 AM

Surprisingly low interest in this topic. Probably should have mentioned firearms, President Bush, genitalia or income redistribution ... you the subjects that folk musicians really care to discuss!!

;-)


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Subject: RE: John Renbourn in Dallas - Review
From: Grab
Date: 18 Apr 02 - 08:20 AM

Just hope he's doing some more touring in the UK. Looking at the website, it seems that he's in the US ATM and did some dates in Feb/Mar in the S of England. Wonder if there's more dates planned in the rest of Britain?

Of my "heroes" so far, I've seen Bert Jansch and Tom Paxton live. If sometime I can see Davey Graham and John Renbourn performing, that'll keep me happy! :-)

Graham.


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