Robbie Basho – Bouquet – Folk Radio UK


Robbie Basho


Lost Lagoon Records

November 18, 2022

Order it here

During research for Liam Barker’s 2015 documentary voice of the eaglebasho master tapes Bunch, his thirteenth album, have been found and remastered, resulting in this bountiful package, available on CD and vinyl, as well as digital and sounding better than ever. With extensive texts by Glenn Jones, Henry Kaiser, Steffen Basho-Jughens and others, as well as rare photos, the physical copy of the release is definitely recommended.

Considered by many to be a misunderstood genius of the steel-string guitar, still overshadowed by contemporaries like John Fahey and Leo Kottke, Basho’s previous albums demonstrated his picking prowess, while the true hero of Bouquet, as on his previous recording Rainbow Thunder, is his powerful voice, often quite spectacular, a formidable instrument in itself. With his music leaning more towards his spiritual and religious interests as his career progressed (it’s inaccurate to use the word “progressed”, as it only really happened posthumously), upon his initial release in 1983, Bouquet was barely seen again, if at all. , and hard to find in record stores; it was most readily found in new age stores that stocked crystals and incense alongside cassette tapes like Bouquet that were billed as feel-good music. Sacrilege, one might think, but Robbie’s music was never an easy sell and, like the man himself, struggled to find his place in the world before his death.

And, listening Bunch in addition to (apparently) attending some of Basho’s live shows, this misunderstanding of his genius can be appreciated. Ever the easiest man to share a space with, Basho’s music can also be challenging at times and inscrutable at others. But it can also be absolutely magical and bewitching, and all of these emotions can be felt during the performance of Bouquet. Considered by some to be a less musically complex work than some of his earlier albums, as Glenn Jones states in his album essay, Bouquet is an album of songs and the song and vocals are the focal point. Take Land of Our Fathers (Hopi Hymn) as an example; barely there, the guitar introduces Basho’s solo prayer before the frame of piano chords and finally gives way to a full choir song (bonus tracks include an incredible thirteen-minute solo version with piano). Undeniably beautiful and touching, this is music that, as Robbie has always asserted, is less concerned with musical technique. That said, Basho’s gifts are on display throughout the album, even if they aren’t seen as center stage. the opener, The gold medallion, and Teresa’s Tears are two examples of excellent fretwork and lavishly picking providing the framework for his powerful voice. Without a doubt, the vocals are the star here, but the guitar playing is beautiful and intricate and would comfortably stand up as an instrumental piece.

The two instrumental songs of the album (I include The Polish Rideralthough it has a sung line) differ considerably in style. The white princess is a solo piano track, with music moving from clear, exceptionally played chords to complex rhythms, each hand communicating with the other but independent enough to allow the melody to explore and grow as it goes. His development. In less than three minutes, it’s a powerful little miniature that manages to do a lot without the addition of Robbie’s robust voice. The Polish Rider immediately sounds more familiar to those familiar with the solo acoustic genre. A short, intricate piece with clever bent strings and a catchy melody, the tune is played impeccably and answers anyone suggesting that the music on Bunch is less technically accomplished than on other discs.

Many will find the music on Bunch tough, but there’s so much to enjoy here, and it’s a high point in Robbie Basho’s career. This version is now the reference; beautifully packaged and ultimately produced in all its glory, with additional context and imagery, and additional music, this extraordinary album is a truly essential purchase.

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