Though frequently overshadowed by his contemporary and Takoma Records labelmate John Fahey, the compositions and performances of Daniel R. Robinson Jr., best known by the stage name Robbie Basho, were integral in the development of the American primitive guitar style. Along with Fahey, and songwriter/composers such as Max Ochs, Leo Kottke, and others, Basho helped bring to the masses the distinct form of guitar finger-picking, which blended folk and country-blues with neo-classical composition techniques. Unlike his contemporaries, Basho went a step further by incorporating unorthodox open tunings on his 12-string guitar, as well as elements of Indian classical music, inspired by the sarod-playing of his mentor Ali Akbar Khan.
Unfortunately Robbie Basho passed on in relative obscurity at the early age of 45 due to a fatal stroke, so he was never able to witness the extent of his influence. Nonetheless his legacy lives on in the works of American primitive guitar revivalists like James Blackshaw and Glenn Jones, as well as indie folk units like Currituck County or Six Organs of Admittance. All of Basho’s signature stylistic elements are on full display on his 1969 album Venus In Cancer, which added onto his dextrous, steel-string finger-picking, additional cues from raga, flamenco, Appalachian folk, and even foresaw the arrival of new age music. A mystical and astrologically-inspired collection of guitar improvisation, one which clocks in at nearly 50 minutes, and a perfect representation of Basho’s visionary American folk brilliance.