Neither of these guitarist should require any introduction – the one the commensurate master of folk, jazz, blues, early music and more, the other the master reinterpretor of others compositions as well as the folk and blues inspiration for a generation of guitarists, including John Renbourn. They hadn’t exactly been touring but the pair had been gigging together – with little clusters of dates appearing at fairly regular intervals – through 2014 and into 2015, in fact right up to John’s death. Offering as it does a snapshot of these gigs it’s easy to imagine that this record was being put together to fill a gap on the merchandise table – although John rarely turned up with much if anything to sell. The gigs, whether at a folk club, a regional arts centre or a larger venue like The Union Chapel, had very similar set-lists and the same feeling of just sitting in with two old friends who were having a ball playing songs they liked and enjoying each other’s company. We can be thankful for these recordings – a number of them live – as they do capture this most relaxed of pairings perfectly : John’s under his breath humming along to his own playing, Wizz’s occasional calls to “take it John”.
The music is sublime, of course. Wizz often disparagingly describes his style as “just bashing the guitar” – this is patently disingenuous, his “bashing” conveys his utter glee in his music making: it’s impossible to listen to Wizz’s booming guitar on Glory of Love without smiling. John Renbourn offers an intricate counterpoint, it’s easy to imagine him sitting back as Wizz launches off in one direction and then, with a smile, leaning into his guitar and producing the most devastatingly beautiful accompaniment. A case in point is what he adds to Wizz’s take on Archie Fisher’s Mountain Rain. If there’s a poignancy to Blues Run the Game, recalling that early casualty of the sixties folk guitar boom then poignancy is heaped upon poignancy for the pairs’ take on Bert Jansch’s Fresh as a Sweet Sunday Morning. It’s inevitable, of course, that this hugely influential generation of guitarists is leaving us, one by one, but this album is something to celebrate – showing a continued and undiminished musicality even as the years advance.
Late last recordings by John Renbourn document his gigging partnership with his early inspiration – Wizz Jones. The result is a masterclass in being relaxed and enjoying music.