John Renbourn Palermo Snow Review

Album. Released 2011.  

BBC Review

A first-class new collection from the British folk veteran.

Sid Smith 2011

Having inspired and influenced legions of players since he came onto the music scene in the 1960s, John Renbourn’s first studio album since 1998’s Traveller’s Prayer shows he isn’t resting on his laurels. This is a relaxed enough selection from a veteran player who doesn’t need to show off, and he’s happy to share his enthusiasm for a good tune.

With its detailed, close-up production, the record provides an intimate portrait that has Renbourn moving beyond the Celtic Connections for which he is probably best known. The title-track and the utterly beguiling Bella Terra take inspiration from Mediterranean sources, with the latter tune doubling as a smoochy, late-night jazzy rumination.

From his work with vocalist Dorris Henderson in 1965, or the collaborations with Bert Jansch, and later with Bert and Jacqui McShee as members of the genre-bending Pentangle, Renbourn has always stood out as a particularly empathetic accompanist.

On this album he is joined by clarinet player, Dick Lee, who takes a soaring lead on three pieces, inscribing the already sparkling music with some smouldering lines. These have sprung from charts written by Renbourn, who ably demonstrates that his ear for combining subtly and surprise remains happily undiminished.

Though suffering slightly from being overly familiar, a remake of Bach’s Cello Prelude in G is nevertheless pretty and accessible, and his take on Satie’s gently circuitous Sarabande recalls American guitar demi-god John Fahey’s enigmatic presence.

Palermo Snow is a confident collection that delights in bringing together a still-formidable technique to exercise and enjoy itself in the company of a good tune. It may be a tried and tested formula but the results are undeniably first class.

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