'a rich tribute to Renbourn’s dazzlingly intricate style and wry character' 4**** stars, The Observer

'these remastered recordings by one of the grand masters of folk guitar offer a fascinating insight into time, place and attitude... [a] joyous atmosphere of carefree jumble' MOJO

'brilliant loft-bound treasure salvage from the late, great John Renbourn' 5*****stars, Record Collector Magazine

'his playing - agile, descriptive, wonderfully explorative' 7/10 Uncut

'An unexpected and invaluable addition to the legacy of British folk guitarist John Renbourn... highly recommended' Yahoo Music

4**** stars, The Mirror (UK)

A vintage collection of previously unreleased recordings

Lovingly remastered from a series of long lost tapes dating back to the early 1960s, The Attic Tapes, is a vintage collection of previously unreleased recordings and early works by John Renbourn, one of guitar music’s truly great innovators. Due for release by Riverboat Records on 16th October 2015, The Attic Tapes  represents in John’s own words, “what was happening to me at the time and a reflection of the general scene”  These recordings were made in the two or three years before his first ever official release for Transatlantic Records, released in February 1966.

The 20 tracks include many true classics, all brilliantly performed and with particular care taken over the sound quality despite the rudimentary sources. There are a number of songs written by Renbourn (‘Judy’, ‘Plainsong’) alongside his unique interpretations of classic tracks which remained in his set throughout his life (‘Candyman’, ‘Can’t Keep From Crying’, ‘Come Back Baby’) plus others written by his contemporaries including Jackson C Frank’s ‘Blues Run the Game’ and Davy Graham’s ‘Anji’. This latter is a particular find: “What’s curious is that the date on the tape box is 1962,” says Renbourn in his notes, “which would make it a very early recording of Davy Graham’s classic….”  Renbourn had first heard ‘Anji’ via his friend and guitarist Mac MacLeod; it was MacLeod who discovered the tape box in his attic, which began the chain of events and further discoveries that led to this invaluable new collection.

John Renbourn is accompanied on two tracks by MacLeod and by others on the scene at the time including Davy Graham and Beverley Martyn whose two tracks were recorded at a gig they shared with visiting American Spider John Koerner (one third of Koerner, Ray & Glover). Beverly Kutner, as she was at the time, was a powerful blues singer, then playing folk clubs usually as part of The Levee Breakers and several years before meeting John Martyn. Another unique track on The Attic Tapes captures John Renbourn performing with one his most inspirational heroes, Davy Graham, on a version of ‘Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out’, sung by Davy and recorded at an arts centre in Stamford. “It was a treasured moment for me,” writes Renbourn in the notes.

His wonderful reminiscences provide another highlight of this album, written only very shortly before his death in March 2015. They capture the times brilliantly, written in John’s warm, self-deprecating way. “Mostly it’s me plunking – occasionally in the company of friends from way back.” He had put a lot of time into this project and over the last couple of years had carefully selected tracks, cleaned them and was looking forward to the release with great enthusiasm. 

John Renbourn: The Attic Tapes

‘Unfortunately we were due to send over the finished artwork to him the day after he passed away, so it’s really sad that he never got to see the finished product... He was also going to do some further digging to see if he could find out the dates, so unfortunately we will never know exactly when most of these recording were made’. – Neil Record and Brad Haynes from Riverboat Records

John Renbourn has long been regarded as one of the world’s greatest contemporary acoustic guitarists.  Over the last five decades he has pursued a remarkable musical journey - dedicated to innovation and technical mastery.  His unique guitar style - often called folk-baroque - fuses English and Celtic folk music with jazz, country blues and pre-Renaissance, together with influences from Western and Eastern classical traditions. 

John Renbourn was born John McCombe in Marylebone, London in 1944 : his father, Robert, was killed in the second world war, and his mother, Dorothy (nee Jopling), married Edward Renbourn, a physician, in 1952, when John’s surname was changed by adoption. The family moved to Surrey, where John had piano lessons and was introduced to early music. He took grade examinations in classical guitar, which influenced his later folk and blues guitar arrangements. He attended Kingston Art School in the early 1960s while living on a boat before acquiring a Scarth guitar and performing at clubs around London, most famously Les Cousins in Soho. Through the American singer, Doris Henderson, who he later recorded two albums with, Renbourn met T-Bone Walker, John Lee Hooker and Memphis Slim. In 1964, Renbourn was introduced to his lifelong friend and musical collaborator, Bert Jansch. In 1967, Pentangle came together through gigs at a club begun by John the year before at The Horseshoe, off Tottenham Court Road.  Releasing their debut album in 1968, Pentangle would achieve considerable world-wide acclaim before disbanding in 1973. John continued to record solo and with the John Renbourn Group and Ship of Fools, and continued touring around the world. Having lived in America for some years John returned to the UK and in the mid-1980s studied for a degree and took up a teaching post at Dartington College in Devon. In later years he toured regularly, often in company with Stefan Grossman, Robin Williamson and Wizz Jones who he was touring and recording with at the time of his death. John’s last official album was 2011’s Palermo Show, itself his first album in 13 years, which makes this new collection of vintage, unheard and unreleased recordings all the more desirable.

John Renbourn was a brilliant exponent of the guitar, and despite considerable successes, never fully received the recognition he deserved. He was a very modest man and never seemed to mind. He was much admired and is greatly missed.

John Renbourn: The Attic Tapes