Definitely one of the more interesting figures to emerge from the 60s folk revival. Bert Jansch is as authentic a rambling bluesman as the British Isles ever produced. Hailing from Scotland, he spent several years traveling and busking for a living, developing his folk-blues songwriting style and perfecting his unique approach to the guitar, before a bout of dysentery in Tangiers forced him back home. He took part in the budding London folk scene of the mid-60s, recording his first album at friend’s home and selling it to Transatlantic Records for £100 (it went on to sell 150,000 copies). Several albums followed, including Jack Orion, his first serious foray into traditional folk material. That record featured fellow acoustic guitar luminary John Renbourn, with whom he would found the short-lived but groundbreaking jazz-folk band Pentangle. He’s been steadily releasing solo records ever since, highlights including the upbeat Birthday Blues, the uncharacteristically gentle and largely instrumental Rosemary Lane, which was recorded at his country home, and the 2006 guest-star-laden comeback record The Black Swan.
Jansch’s voice, though pleasant, is of kind of an acquired taste. It’s the guitar playing that really stands out on his records. His love of jazz and non-Western music is apparent in the complex chords and unusual time signatures he regularly employs. He’s also got a unique way of playing simultaneous, contrapunctal melodies in the upper and lower register, making it sound as though there are several instruments playing at once. If you enjoy stuff like Nick Drake, or any kind of folky music really, be sure to check him out.
Bert Jansch (1965)
Jack Orion (1966)
Birthday Blues (1969)
Rosemary Lane (1971)
The Black Swan (2006)
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