Bert Jansch

“When faced with having to sum up Bert Jansch’s life it is nigh on impossible to choose what to focus on first, as they do so summarily in those cursory opening lines of your regular obituary. Is his crowning achievement that wonderful slew of albums between his 1965 eponymous LP and 1971’s Rosemary Lane? His work with Pentangle? The fact he was a major influence on Jimi Hendrix and Neil Young? The album that accompanied his magnificent renaissance during last decade, The Black Swan? Or his devotion and warmth towards a whole generation of artists to emerge in the ’90s and ’00s who venerated him so much? Ultimately, it’s enough to say that in his famously quiet, modest way, Jansch was one of the most innovative instrumentalists of the twentieth century in the folk rock canon – and there was so much more to him than tunings that influenced several generations and the astonishing clarity of his playing. And even as the fingers became a little less nimble and the voice more strained and frail, he was still a performer who never seemed satisfied with the vast knowledge he had gleaned. His desire to always see more was central to his humility, something to which artists such as Johnny Marr, Bernard Butler, Beth Orton, Meg Baird, Devendra Banhart and Vetiver will attest. That quality went back a long way. When Jansch arrived in London from Scotland in 1964, he was already an aficionado of American blues forms, and soon became an authority on steadfastly traditional English folk as defined by Cecil Sharp’s archives. But neither of these things were really ever enough to contain him, as can be heard in the exploratory nature of his first couple of LPs, Bert Jansch and It Don’t Bother Me, both released in 1965. Another great guitarist on the London scene, John Renbourn, was listening closely, and the two made a pair of albums as a duo. Together they veritably revolutionised the harmonics of guitar playing. Unlike the market-friendly rock and roll bands of the time, Jansch, like his friends the Incredible String Band, had a strong penchant for travel and shambled his way across Europe multiple times, as well as to North Africa. Along with opening his eyes musically, Jansch assumed the existence of the so-called beatnik, further distancing him from the ‘people’s music’ of the folk clubs, complicating his oeuvre even more. …”
The Quietus
Discogs: Jack Orion (Video), Discogs: Birthday Blues (Video), Discogs: Rosemary Lane (Video)
YouTube: Royal Festival Hall, 30/6/71 51:23, Top Songs – Bert Jansch 1/150

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