Robbie Basho: Recommended Recordings

In Fretboard Journal #24 (available here), contributor Buck Curran writes about the life and legacy of Robbie Basho. Here is some further information for anyone looking to dig a little deeper into this unique music personality.

Select Robbie Basho Recordings

  • The Grail and the Lotus (1966)
  • Basho Sings (1967)
  • Venus in Cancer (1969, reissued in 2006 by Tompkins Square)
  • Voice of the Eagle (1972)
  • Zarthus (1974)
  • Visions of the Country (1978)
  • Bonn ist Supreme (2008) – A 1980 concert recorded in Germany.

Robbie Basho’s Legacy: Select Recordings from the “Children of Basho”

  • We Are All One, In the Sun, Various artists (Important Records). Compilation includes Steffen Basho Junghans, Glenn Jones, Meg Baird, Helena Espvall, Fern Knight, Cian Nugent and Rahim Alhaj.
  • Jack Rose’s Red Horse, White Mule (Eclispe), Raag Manifestos (Eclipse) and Kensington Blues (VHF/Tequila Sunrise). “For me, 12-string begins and ends with Blind Willie McTell and Robbie Basho,” says Rose.
  • Glenn Jones’ Against Which the Sea Continually Beats (Strange Attractors) and Barbecue Bob in Fishtown (Strange Attractors) “What I’ve always loved about Basho is the emotionality of his music, the HUGE physical presence that leaps out of the speakers when you play his records, his originality, and his total and complete commitment to his visions,” says Jones. “With Fahey, you get that sense of bigger-than-life-ness certainly, and, as you know, there are few guitarist I admire as much as John. But Basho is one. While Fahey synthesized a lot of influences, and sizzled them all up in the wok of his brain, I think Basho is the more original player. If one if familiar with John’s influences you can find them, bent to his will certainly, in his music. But being familiar with Basho’s influences — Indian music, Persian music, folksong — one is hard-pressed to find any hint of those influences in what he does. His ragas don’t sound like Indian ragas, his Persian influences don’t sound anything like the Nonesuch Persian records that were his inspiration, and what folksinger sounds like Basho?! John Jacob Niles –an American composer, singer and collector of traditional ballads, who I only discovered recently, DOES sound like an influence on his vocal style to me –shockingly so at times, though I never heard Basho mention him, nor have I’ve seen any references to a Basho/Niles connection in what anyone else has written on Basho.”
  • Steffen Basho Junghans’ Late Summer Morning (Strange Attractors), Song of the Earth (Sublingual Records), In Search of the Eagle’s Voice (Blue Moment Arts). Germany’s Steffen Basho Junghans is easily one of the greatest of the Basho disciples. In the early ’90s, after the wall in Germany was broken, at a time, when Robbie Basho was nearly forgotten, he spent much more time and creativity in his Robbie Basho research, visited Basho’s former Berkeley home and other places and asked tons of people tons of questions. In 1996, he worked for the Fantasy’s reissue of Guitar Soli, writing notes and comments.  Today he maintains the Robbie Basho Archives, an exhaustive and growing sources of all things Basho.
  • James Blackshaw’s Celeste (Tompkins Square), Sunshrine (Tompkins Square), O True Believers (Important Records/Bo’weavil) and Waking into Sleep (Kning Disk). “Discovering Robbie Basho was a real turning point for me,” Blackshaw says, “and to call him influential with regard to my own work is an understatement. Much more so than Fahey, even.”
  • Arborea’s Wayfaring Summer (Summer Street), Arborea (Fire Museum). Yes, this is my group. The first time I sat down and really listened to Basho, I instantly felt a kindred spirit to him, and instinctively knew the musical world he had come through. Master musicians Nikhil Banerjee and Ravi Shankar from India share an intimate musical connection, as they were taught by the same guru Allauddin Khan. The fact that Robbie Basho was influenced by Ravi Shankar and that I was influenced by Nikhil Banerjee…. shows that we have both drawn from the same flowing musical stream. I find myself taking a lot of cues from Basho lately (both guitar and voice) because there is such a wealth of ideas and inspiration on his recordings. Basho was a musical pioneer and one of the true fathers of World music!
  • Cian Nugent – Childhood, Christian Lies and Slaughter (Incunabulum/audioMER)
  • Yair Yona’s Remember (Strange Attractors). “Robbie Basho is probably my favorite musician in the Takoma school of guitarists,” Yona said in August of 2010. “His music is pure inspiration because his ability to mix influences from different styles and cancel all geographical boundaries is something I relate to very much. For me, composing should be all about constant exploring and not only within the obvious genre, but go far to distant places, pick whatever you pick from there in your little bag, and return ‘home’ and have all these little stones you picked in your journey, assembled into one piece of music. This is Basho to me, a constant searcher, explorer and innovator. Not a ‘guitar player’ but expressionist who happens to hold a guitar.”
  • Cam Deas – My Guitar is Alive and It’s Singing! (Blackest Rainbow). “Robbie Basho’s guitar playing has been of great influence on my own, it was his playing that introduced me to the 12 string guitar,” Deas said in 2010. “I’ve always admired his ability to perfectly capture the scenes of mountains; of natural grandeur and beauty, and the sense of freedom and joy one feels in those environments. For some time I took all my tunings directly from Robbie’s as to try and emulate the same emotions he did, but not anymore: I feel there is nothing more to add to them.”
  • Jack Rose and Glenn Jones, The Things We Used to Do (DVD, Strange Attractors)

Citation Information for the FJ Article
Curran’s article relied on quotes from a variety sources. The John Fahey quotes originally appeared on the record Bashovia (courtesy of Bill Belmont/Fantasy); Ed Denson quotes appear in the liner notes to Guitar Soli and in the original notes to The Grail and the Lotus (courtesy of Bill Belmont/Fantasy); some of the Glenn Jones quotes also appeared in the liner notes to Guitar Soli. Jack Rose was quoted from an interview by Brian Rademaekers for Arthur magazine.

If you have a good Basho tale to tell (or know the whereabouts of that mysterious 12-string guitar), we’d love to hear from you. Comment to us below.