John Renbourn at the Cambridge Folk Festival in 2011. Image: Bryan Ledgard
A chance exchange with an electronic acquaintance at Twitter prompted some thoughts on folk music (and allied forms) without voices, musicians who let their instruments do the talking.
The first examples of instrumental sounds that caught my admiring attention would have been the string of hits recorded by the Shadows; the chart-topping Apache, originally recorded by Bert Weedon whose version enjoyed more modest success, dates from 1960.
It was rather later in the decade that I turned to folk music. The High Level Ranters, a sort of North-eastern folk supergroup, produced a wonderful collective sound and I listened a lot to the Irish groups such as the Dubliners who included jigs, reels and slow airs in their sets, a phenomenon taken to new levels in the 1970s by Planxty, Moving Hearts and the Bothy Band among others. The Chieftains, meanwhile, concentrated solely on non-vocal music, collaborations with singers coming later.
On the British folk scene, a new wave of musicians mixing traditional and contemporary folk, blues, jazz and classical influences was exemplified by John Renbourn and Bert Jansch, together, solo or in Pentangle.
Which brings me back to to where I started.
At Twitter, Hilary Fawcett, whose online company I keep because we are somewhat like-minded (being European, music and Sunderland AFC among our shared passions), recalled the extraordinary virtuosity of Renbourn, who died five years ago. I mentioned one exquisite piece I could not name and from my decription, Hilary correctly identified The Earl of of Salisbury, hailed bv Samy Zafrany when posting it at Y0uTube as "an enchanting piece of rarely found rennaisance-like music".
It comes from Renbourn's gloriously titled 1967 album Sir John Alot of Merrie Englandes Musyk Thyng and ye Grene Knyghte and now becomes thu4 first entry in a little series I may or may not get round to updating from time to time. Enjoy ....