This album is just wonderful. John Renbourn was so talented and the quality of recordings just kept coming thick and fast. He had already recorded both as a solo artist but also as a member of the group Pentangle and at the time of recording this album in August 1971 Pentangle were beginning to crumble.
This new solo project was a great diversion from the group, although actually it isn’t just John on the recording. For a start there is also Terry Cox and Danny Thompson from the group pentangle on bass and drums. Also present is Dorris Henderson providing backing vocals. She had recorded two albums with John in the Mid Sixties. Helping out was current girlfriend Sue Draheim on fiddle and backing vocals, and Peter Dyer on harmonica.
John felt the direction for the album should be a sort of back to basics kind of thing after recent Pentangle albums and his last solo offering The lady and Unicorn. In some ways that is true with its blues folk and jazz mixture. But at the same time with its Cox and Thompson contribution and the Henderson vocals replacing the Jacque McShee ones, it isn’t that far off a Pentangle sound.
Don’t get me wrong, Faro Annie has a unique atmosphere to it unlike any other album and so it does stand up on its own. The album has all Traditional pieces except a cover of the Robert Johnson song Come on in my kitchen which has its more traditional blues feel to it. There is another song that isn’t from Traditional source and that is the title track Faro Annie, written by John himself and arranged by him, Thompson Drahiem and Cox The album has a Folk and blues feel to it and there is heavy use of the sitar played by Renbourn. The album begins with the Traditional blues song White House Blues and then goes into Buffalo Skinners another Traditional piece made famous by Woody Guthrie. Both get a fabulous rendition and arrangement here that has uniqueness in its sound. The blues continues with a piece made famous by Fred McDowell and James Arnold who came from a place called Kokomo. This is Kokomo blues a Traditional piece from the Mississippi area. Track four, Little Sadie is another piece that has Traditional origin and made famous by James Kokomo Arnold. Shake Shake Mama is by Bert Jansch and John Renbourn but it has its roots in old American blues. Willy O Winsbury and The Cuckoo are variants of British Traditional pieces. Then there is Country blues, a piece arranged by Jansch and Renbourn but it has its roots in American folk blues and the Appalachian Tradition. It had been made famous by old time singer Moran Lee Dock Boggs.
The strong references to what could easily have been long forgotten old time American blues is important here as John keeps it alive. John gives us his unique style of course and the album has great originality in its sound.
This is a most satisfying album indeed and is highly recommended to anyone interested in John Renbourn,
As always with a John Renbourne album, this is a set of heartfelt tracks, into which he has poured his heart and soul.
I was a little surprised listening to this. I am more familiar with his later work, largely instrumental albums that synthesise early baroque and English folk music such as `Ship of Fools'. I was expecting largely more of the same, but this early album finds Renbourne still trying to settle to a musical identity. There are elements of the folk and early music, but overlaid with Guthrie style protest songs and blues, with the odd sitar thrown in. What surprised me more were the vocals, Renbourne usually lets his guitar do the talking, I was not expecting to hear him sing. It's a good voice, well suited to the style of music, and he brings forth an emotional intensity that is quite captivating at times.
An excellent album, one I would recommend to all fans of the Guthrie/Dylan folk style.
Highly recommended this john Renbourn's album. I have the standard CD version and I like it so much that I've bought it in japan version, sound greater, better clear sound. Not only John is nice on this CD, Dorris' vocal is more present and the violin of Sue Draheim is so sweet, a real successful masterpiece, buy it without hesitation.... and enjoy
Height of folly - 35 years ago I taped this and sold the vinyl and regretted it almost immediately. And I lost the tape. Delighted to be reunited with it. I've always enjoyed Renbourn's playing but particularly the blues - so this is my ideal album of his.
I always think that it's an odd and not altogether satisfying quirk in John Renbourn's playing style, particularly in that period, where he and other Britiish folk players on the scene adopted this sort of Brit, blues guitar/singing style which I think was propogated in many by the influence of Davy Graham. For Bert and others, it seemed fine. Bert's solo material had a strong integrity in a coherent style of his own. As John Renbourn shows so much talent in the classical style and in the interpretation of medieval music, to me, his forays into folk and blues seem a bit contrived and strange. Mazin' talent though, still love 'im!
I bought this LP in 1972 when I was in Sheffield going for my university entrance interview. Stange how 40 years later one can remember such things. One of my favourite LPs by JR and is similar in some ways to the later Pentangle LP "Refection".
This is John Renbourns most blues influental album, but a very English one. Backed by the Pentangle rythm section of Terry Cox and Danny Thompson, this is the album that remind me most of his work with Bert Jansch & Co. So if anyone thought of Renbourn as "academic", this is a testament and proof that you should reconsider your opinion.