John Pearse

The Lost 1966 Waldeck Audition

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Although he was fairly well known in the folk music community for his television programs and guitar instructional books, John Pearse released relatively few recordings in his lifetime. The discovery and release of this 1966 tape -- made in Germany as a test of a tape recorder that had been purchased by organizers of the Waldeck folk festival -- predates the first of the records he put out under his own name, 1968's Guitar Train. As such, it's an important historical find, though not destined to be one of the more impressive British folk recordings of the '60s. Noted for his facility in the Piedmont blues style of guitar playing (though he capably integrated other techniques into his work as well), Pearse's instrumental skills were more impressive than his fairly ordinary, serviceable vocals. That's certainly the case on this 18-song, 41-minute set with fine, clear fidelity. It's dominated by traditional material, some of it ("Cocaine," "Fix Me a Pallet on Your Floor") quite familiar, while three Mississippi John Hurt songs testify to his passion for American country blues. Though executed well, it's not as idiosyncratic or imaginative as recordings by the more well-known acoustic folk guitarists of his time, and thus perhaps mostly of interest to serious British folk enthusiasts/completists. Bear Family's packaging, however, is typically all-out, with a booklet nearly 40 pages in length featuring a historical essay, remembrances of Pearse's tours, the circumstances behind this recording, and numerous vintage photos.

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