The Bert Jansch Conundrum
[Stefan Grossman’s Guitar Workshop SGGW143 (2011)]
Formed in the late 1970’s after Bert Jansch‘s tenure with the legendary Pentangle, this British Isles folk-blues-jazz “supergroup,” comprised of Jansch (vocals, guitar), Martin Jenkins (vocals, violin, flute, manducello), Nigel Portman-Smith (bass, piano, accordion), Luce Langridge (drums), and Jacqui McShee (vocal on one track), gathered together with Nick Kinsey (engineer and co-producer) and made their one and only album, which was recorded in 1979 at London’s Livingston Studio.
Jansch, a prodigious guitar player with a variety of dazzling fingerpicking and flatpicking styles at his command, knows a good tune when he hears one, and if you didn’t pick this up in the record bins when it was first released in 1980, you will not be disappointed in 2011 (ask Neil Young or Jimmy Page). There’s plenty here for everyone: a goodtime ragtime stroll (“In My Mind”), a hard-hitting confessional (“Where Did My Life Go”), a classical romp (“Bridge”), some subtle disco-pop (“Time and Love”), a jazzy shifting mood dance (“Nightfall”) and eight other songs. Thirteen Down (reported to be named for the number of songs on the album) gives good bang for the buck, and, although it was never the smashing commercial success that he hoped for, this album did prove to loyal fans and the music critics alike that Jansch is a force to be reckoned with and deserves respect as a gifted singer-songwriter.
Jansch completed a short tour of America with Pegi Young (Neil’s wife) last year and still manages to get around to the coffeehouses and clubs, so catch him while you can.
—TJ McGrath (Woodbridge, CT)