I love the guitar. I love acoustic guitar. I love traditional French music played on the acoustic guitar. So back in my college days, when I was a French major studying in Rouen, I discovered Pierre Bensusan, and it felt like I’d won the trifecta!
He recorded his first album, Près de Paris, in 1975 when he was only seventeen, yet his sophisticated, crystal-clear fingerpicking in DADGAD “open tuning” artfully created space for his melodic vocals, breathing new life into beautiful old songs. I believed every word he sang. Little did I know that I would later enjoy a great friendship with Pierre and his wife Doatéa in New York and later when I moved to Paris. When he told me he was touring North America, I decided I had to bring him to Central Vermont!
Pierre at sixteen was already on the folk circuit playing mandolin, touring, and recording with Vermont’s own Jim Rooney, along with banjo player Bill Keith in France. At the time, acoustic guitarists, such as John Renbourn, Martin Carthy, John Fahey, and Leo Kottke, were all developing their own open-tuning styles. Pierre focused on guitar and continued to fuse all he has pursued ever since, from traditional Irish and French to contemporary jazz, classical, and world music ranging from flamenco to Arabic and African. All styles enter Pierre’s vintage Lowden and come out as his own creations, as they have for decades.
Pierre offers workshops and residencies to musicians from all over the world at his home just north of Paris. It’s no wonder that his stand-alone talent has earned him the respect of artists everywhere. Even Joan Baez and Pete Seeger advocated for his being granted a special artist’s visa to be able to tour in the United States.
It’s hard to describe the remarkable evolution of Pierre’s style over so many years but having listened to every single note he’s ever recorded, I encourage you to come to this rare appearance.
He has more awards and magazine covers than one can count or name, but it doesn’t really matter when you just close your eyes and listen….
To learn more and to hear his music: pierrebensuan.com
—Nikki Matheson, AFLCR instructor
Pierre Bensusan will perform at the Unitarian Church of Montpelier on Friday, October 21, 2022, at 7:30pm. Tickets are available at the door and online.