The Avett Brothers
Source: Custom Artist Editions
OMM John Renbourn
John Renbourn’s musical influences range from folk, blues and jazz to early music and classical, and all – separately and in combination – have found a place in the rich musical landscape he has created during his long career. One of the world’s most brilliant fingerstyle guitarists, Renbourn has dazzled, confounded and inspired, whether solo, paired with Bert Jansch or Stefan Grossman or as a member of Pentangle, and he continues to create music of uncommon beauty and depth.
Over the years, John Renbourn’s acoustic guitar preference has evolved; beginning with a round-hole archtop, he moved to round and square-shouldered Dreadnoughts (including a rare Martin D-62 bought in the late 1980s), and eventually settled on orchestra models from both American and European builders. So joining forces with C. F. Martin & Co. – which originated the orchestra model in 1929 – to create the Martin OMM John Renbourn Custom Artist Edition is the natural culmination of a lifelong quest.
“I am over the moon about this guitar,” Renbourn commented. “The goal is to combine the best of American and European lutherie: a guitar that has design features that recall the European influence on early Martins, but with all the innovative qualities that Martin has developed since. My own priority is simple – I am after the very best tonal quality and balance.” On both objectives, the Martin OMM John Renbourn Custom Artist Edition succeeds spectacularly.
This beauty begins with a classic Martin design and exceptional solid premium tonewoods. Martin’s OM design, with its 15” body and long (25.4”) scale, is the ultimate fingerstyle guitar; revered for its balance and projection. The back and sides are rare Madagascar rosewood, similar in appearance and sound to the now-endangered Brazilian rosewood. The top is Italian alpine spruce, prized for its clarity and dynamic range, and features 1/4” scalloped bracing for exceptional responsiveness. The neck is carved from genuine mahogany.
While the neck’s 1 3/4” width at the nut – with a low profile shape for playing comfort – is an original Martin OM design element, the diamond volute and slotted headstock with square slots are reminiscent of guitars from the late 19th and early 20th century. The tuners are likewise vintage inspired: Golden Age™ nickel tuners with ivoroid buttons and engraved plates.
In contrast, the ebony headplate and fingerboard showcase Martin inlay artistry at its best. The polished headstock features a richly detailed unicorn inlay in abalone pearl, gold and white mother of pearl, and Micarta. The fingerboard provides the “canvas” for unique mother of pearl pentangle (five-pointed star) position markers at the third, fifth (2), seventh, ninth, twelfth (2), fifteenth and seventeen frets. “Years ago I made a record called The Lady and the Unicorn and the image has stuck,” Renbourn explained. “The pentangles pay tribute to my time in the group Pentangle.”
Even though the album and the group are milestones, they represent only a portion of John Renbourn’s impressive career. A native of London, Renbourn studied classical guitar in his early teens, but soon broadened his horizons to include folk, skiffle, and rhythm & blues. He acquired a steel string guitar and joined his first band – on a borrowed electric guitar - while a student at Kingston College of Art.
After art school, he met Dorris Henderson, a blues and gospel singer from Los Angeles, and served as her accompanist for two albums. Soon after, he recorded an eponymous solo album of original tunes and traditional blues. He also met and roomed with Bert Jansch during this period, and the two recorded Bert and John, their groundbreaking album of fingerstyle duets.
Renbourn and Jansch joined forces with friends and jamming buddies Jacqui McShee, Danny Thompson and Terry Cox to create Pentangle, taking the name from the emblem on the shield in the 14th century narrative poem “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.” The original group met with immediate success, recording six folk, jazz, blues and early music-infused albums between 1969 and 1972, and touring major venues in Europe and the United States. During this period, Renbourn also released five albums under his own name, including Sir John Alot… and The Lady and the Unicorn. Renbourn would leave Pentangle in 1972, but the original members came back together briefly in 2008 to receive a Lifetime Achievement Award at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards and do a concert tour of the United Kingdom.
Renbourn continued to record solo albums that blended traditional Celtic and other influences in the 1970s and 1980s. He also began an occasional collaboration – both in performance and in the recording studio - with American guitarist Stefan Grossman and put together the similarly occasional John Renbourn Group to create Renaissance music accented with folk, jazz and Indian elements.
He headed back to university in the early 1980s, where he earned a degree in composition and orchestration, but took time off to play the occasional concert, including a memorable pairing with Doc Watson at Carnegie Hall. He began writing music for instrumental groups and voice and in 1987 put together John Renbourn’s Ship of Fools, which played one concert and recorded one album. In 1993 he also released Wheel of Fortune, a Grammy-nominated one-off collaboration with Robin Williamson from the Incredible String Band – a combination Renbourn dubbed the Impenetrable Stringtangle.
Beginning in 1998 with Traveller’s Prayer, Renbourn returned to recording and live performance, his playing as impressive as ever. A show with former Pentangle partner Jacqui McShee was filmed and released as a DVD in 2004: John Renbourn and Jacqui McShee in Concert. In 2010, he returned to the stage with Robin Williamson for a series of concerts and completed a new solo studio recording, tentatively titled Palermo Snow. A recording of original Renbourn compositions by Italian classical guitarist Marco Rossetti is also pending. In addition, he started a summer guitar workshop in the South of France, which has become an annual event.
Additional vintage-inspired features complete the Martin OMM John Renbourn Custom Artist Edition. The ebony pyramid bridge is fitted with plain ebony bridge pins; the endpin likewise is plain ebony. Fine herringbone purfling and delicate black/white line purfling encircle the top and back, respectively, each protected by grained ivoroid binding. The endpiece is also grained ivoroid, framed by fine black/white inlay. The nut and compensated saddle are crafted from genuine bone. True to fingerstyle – and early Martin – tradition, the guitar comes without a pickguard.
Aging toner on the top adds to the vintage-style patina. The body showcases Martin’s flawless polished gloss lacquer finish, while the neck receives a satin finish. Guitars may be ordered with a sunburst top and factory-installed electronics at additional cost; left-handed instruments can be ordered with no additional charge.
Delivered in a Geib™-style hardshell case, each Martin OMM John Renbourn Custom Artist Edition guitar bears an interior label personally signed by John Renbourn and numbered in sequence. Authorized C. F. Martin & Co. dealers are accepting orders for the OMM John Renbourn Custom Artist Edition now and a list of participating dealers will be posted on this website.