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John Renbourn & Wizz Jones John Renbourn & Wizz Jones
Album: Joint Control
Label: Riverboat
Tracks: 13
Website: http://www.worldmusic.net

Only very recently Wizz Jones released an album, About Time, that was recorded with his lifelong friend Ralph McTell, and here's a further collaboration between Wizz and another good friend, this time the late John Renbourn. A disc of quite a different complexion, however, for as it turns out, Joint Control is a particularly poignant release, since John died from a heart attack on 26th March 2015, literally days after the final recordings for the project were made.

John and Wizz had been touring together since 2012, honing their repertoire prior to recording for the album. Their incredibly well matched, complementary guitar styles dovetail together due to the musicians' tremendously close-knit bond, and I never cease to marvel at how each of them responds almost symbiotically to the other's improvisatory shifts and staggered bar-lines. That sense of joint control, indeed, which stops your ears in their tracks - especially on items such as National Seven and the instrumental that gives the album its title (a Bert Jansch composition that was inexplicably left off Bert's own second album back in the day).

The remainder of the selections are either a veritable compendium of those halcyon 1960s days when creative guitar picking was in its ascendancy, or else pay tribute to that era. The pervasive influence of Big Bill Broonzy (Hey Hey, The Glory Of Love), the folk troubadours (Jackson C. Frank's Blues Run The Game, Al Jones' In Stormy Weather), Davy Graham and Joseph Spence (the latter's Great Dream From Heaven) - all these are topped up with more recent compositions such as the Jansch anthem Strolling Down The Highway, Bob Dylan's Buckets Of Rain and Wizz's own instrumental Balham Moon. Jansch's early-70s opus Fresh As A Sweet Sunday Morning receives a moving, intimate performance here too. The recording, by Colin Hood, is close and detailed yet full of the warmth of intricate interaction (I don't think I've heard a better captured guitar sound), while the consistency between the studio and live recordings on this set is remarkable.

This outstanding release could not provide a more fitting memorial to John Renbourn, nor a more convincing demonstration of the power of two parallel talents working together. This is emphatically not just an album for incurable guitar buffs, for it's stacked full of tremendous musicianship and intense musicality to which any listener should respond.

David Kidman