Fire and light
Frogs, toads, and days of gold

Tunes for a Monday Morning

This week we're going back to the early days of the UK's folk music revival with three beautiful songs from The Pentangle, and one from The John Renbourn Group.

Pentangle was the creation of two young men who went on to become folk music legends, the great John Renbourn  and Bert Jansch -- along with vocalist Jacqui McShee, bass player Danny Thompson, and drummer Terry Cox, all of them strong musicians themselves. (The band's name, representing its five members, came from the device on Sir Gawain's shield in the Middle English poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.) In various incarnations, Pentangle released twelve albums from 1968 to 1995 -- but they're best known for the work of the original line-up (1967-1973), especially for the highly influential albums Cruel Sister and Basket of Light.

Above, "Let No Man Steal Your Time," an early concert performance filmed back in 1968.

Below, "Hunting Song," performed for a BBC special in 1970. The song is introduced by Bert Jansch -- who died,  much too early, in 2011. It's remarkable to see him so young here.


"Cruel Sister" (audio only) -- which is a variant of "Twa Sisters," Child Ballad Number 10 -- recorded for Pentangle's album Cruel Sister in 1970.  That album, interestingly, was considered a commercial disaster when first released, but it's been deeply loved by folk music enthusiasts for generations since.

In the mid-70s, John Renbourn began to host a series of musical gathering of friends...which turned into The John Renbourn Group, melding folk and medieval music with jazz and Eastern influences. The Renbourn Group, with various line-ups, performed together until 1981, and produced three wonderful albums.

The song below, "A Maid in Bedlam" (audio only), comes from the album of that name, 1977. It's the best of the three, in my opinion (being partial to vocal harmonies), but the other two albums are also very good. The performers here are Renbourn, McShee, Sue Draheim, Tony Roberts, and Keshav Sathe.

For an interesting look at the people and music of the UK folk revival and early folk-rock scene, I recommend "Electric Eden," a fascinating profile of the period by Rob Young.

John Renbourn and Burt Jansch


Photographs:  Renbourn & Jansch in the '60s, and The John Renbourn Group in the '70s.