Bert Jansch - Bert Jansch - Review
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critics' view

The debut album from the Glasgow-born singer-songwriter firmly places the artist in a distinguished guitar picker lineage which (purely from my own personal musical perspective) reads Blind Gary Davis; Dave Van Ronk; Martin Carthy; Bert Jansch; Nick Drake; James Yorkston. They all brought their own unique twists and turns; Bert’s was to play free and easy, veering from the delicate to the aggressive, with a conviction that was irresistible. At times his playing seems reckless – but he’s a master craftsman and knows his trade well; he’s in full control. All bar one of the fifteen pieces here were from his own pen, his excellent version of Davey Graham’s “Angie” being the one exception, right at the album’s close. It’s worth pointing out that the album’s rating would rise a half point (changing its status from “really good” to “brilliant”) were it not for the incidental little 60 second pieces which are placed to break up the “proper” songs from time to time.

Rambling's Gonna Be The Death Of Me” is a major highlight piece on side 1 – it’s a classic, with a nagging bluesy pick which fairly suits an age old bluesman theme: “No girl I've loved has ever held me down, No reason can I give for leaving this town, My love is true now, my love is true, But the road is long, I've got to see my journey through” The only surprise is that he wasn’t a gambler to boot. Not so common at this time, was the anti-drug song. “Needle of Change” certainly comes into that category. “One grain of pure white snow, dissolved in blood spread quickly to your brain, In peace your mind withdraws, your death so near your soul can't feel no pain. Your troubled young life, had made you turn, to a needle of death. Your mother stands a cryin', while to the earth your body's slowly cast, your father stands in silence, caressing every young dream of the past.” It’s mesmerising and the message is powerful – it’s said that kids paid attention to this, and that’s pretty cool. Speaking to Uncut magazine in January 2010 Bert said: “It's inspired by a friend called Buck Polly, a folk singer and one of the people I met when I first came to London. Buck used to drive (folk singer) Alex Campbell to gigs, because what he did for a living was repair gardens – we would drive along in these jalopies. About six months after meeting Buck and Alex, I was with them one day, Buck was in a bad mood; his wife wouldn't let him see the kids or something, something to do with money. And we went up to Goodge Street, a pub there called Finch's. Buck scored from a dealer. And the next day, I'd heard he'd died.”

Bert’s debut was worldly wise – even if he himself wasn’t. He sold it to Transatlantic Records for the princely sum of £100. It went on to sell 150,000 copies. Not bad for a set which was recorded on a single microphone and a borrowed guitar in his kitchen, eh? That’s talent for you.

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