EVER SINCE John Renbourn became acquainted with the eclectic music of fellow British guitarist Davey Graham, his passion, American blues, has been balanced by a similar devotion to European folk traditions, much of it centuries old.
"The Black Balloon," Renbourn's latest album, is as good an example of his mastery of English, Irish and French pieces as you're likely to find. It opens with the foursquare cadences of "The Moon Shines Bright" before the courtly theme gives way to a series of brisk, crisply executed inventions. Strip away the Elizabethan overtones and it's not unlike the path that Renbourn later travels with even more spirit and adventure on the album's title track (which, by the way, is the only performance here that hints at his strong affinity for jazz and blues).
In addition to a rhythmically engaging 13th-century English dance tune and a neatly woven medley of jig and reel, the album boasts a few enchanting moments as well, such as when Renbourn and flutist Tony Roberts collaborate on the gorgeous Irish air "The Mist-Covered Mountains of Home."
JOHN RENBOURN -- "The Black Balloon" (Shanachie). Appearing Saturday with Bert Jansch at the Barns of Wolf Trap.