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Bert Jansch

One of the most important figures in contemporary British folk, Bert Jansch brought an unsurpassed combination of virtuosity and eclecticism to the acoustic guitar, both as a solo act and a key member of Pentangle. Also a talented songwriter and affecting (if gruff) vocalist, he wrote dark and sparse material that recalled the folky side of Donovan, though he was much less pop-oriented than the psychedelic pop troubadour. Incorporating elements of blues, American folk, and British Isles traditional music into his playing, his influence was not only immense in the British folk scene, it also extended to the rock world -- Neil Young and Jimmy Page, two electric guitar gonzos who often turn to acoustic picking as well, have acknowledged Jansch as a major influence. Young went as far as to tell Guitar Player that Jansch did for the acoustic guitar what Jimi Hendrix did for the electric. A revered elder statesperson in the U.K., he escaped widespread notice in the States, yet he had all the prerequisites for a large cult following on the order of Nick Drake, another musician whose work contains definite echoes of Jansch.

Born in Scotland, Jansch vagabonded around the U.K. and Europe for a while before basing himself in London in the early '60s. He made an impact on the city's folk community not only for his guitar skills, but for his original songwriting, singing his own compositions at a time when Dylan was just beginning to make that practice widespread in folk circles. Friend and fellow folksinger Anne Briggs helped Jansch get a contract with Transatlantic, a small British folky label. Recorded on a single microphone and a borrowed guitar at Jansch's apartment, his first album immediately established him as a major force in British folk. Consisting almost entirely of original compositions, the brooding, plaintive compositions showcased his dexterous fingerpicking. "Needle of Death," inspired by the heroin-related death of a friend, may still be his most famous composition.

Jansch graduated to a real studio for his second album, It Don't Bother Me. That LP featured some contributions from guitarist John Renbourn, and the pair would record a joint effort in the mid-'60s as well, Bert and John. Soon Jansch and Renbourn would be playing together as part of a five-member group, Pentangle, one of the greatest folk acts of the 1960s. Pentangle, also featuring vocalist Jacqui McShee and the rhythm section of Danny Thompson and Terry Cox, was very much a group effort. Of all the group members, however, Jansch was probably the most important, writing the best original material, singing occasional lead vocals, and recording some enthralling guitar tandems with Renbourn.

Jansch's increasing involvement (and eventual commercial success) with Pentangle did not mean an end to his solo career, although Pentangle got first priority in the late '60s and early '70s. Nicola, from 1967, was a pretty good attempt to commercialize his sound somewhat with poppier material and some fuller studio arrangements. Released in 1969, Birthday Blues was an effort more consistent with his early folk recordings, and included instrumental support by some members of Pentangle. Rosemary Lane (1971) is acclaimed by Jansch fans as one of his finest works.

Jansch's first decade of recording attracts the lion's share of interest from listeners, but he continued to record with his instrumental skills intact. For instance, Jansch played in re-formed versions of Pentangle in the 1980s and '90s, while Drag City released the widely acclaimed Black Swan in 2006. However, in later years ill health made it necessary for him to cancel previously scheduled concert and tour appearances. Bert Jansch died of lung cancer at a hospice in Hampstead, London, England on October 5, 2011. He was 67 years old. ~ Richie Unterberger
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: Sweet Sweet Music

1. It Don't Bother Me (Live)

2. Strolling Down The Highway (Live)

3. Blackwaterslide (Live)

4. My Pocket's Empty Baby (Live)

5. Fresh As A Sweet Sunday Morning (Live)

6. Rosemary Lane (Live)

7. Blues Run The Game (Live)

8. Courting Blues (Live)

9. Reynardine (Live)

10. Poison (Live)

11. October Song (Live)

12. Hey Pretty Girl (Live)

x

Track List: The Black Swan

1. The Black Swan

2. High Days

3. When The Sun Comes Up

4. Katie Cruel

5. My Pocket's Empty

6. Watch The Stars

7. A Woman Like You

8. The Old Triangle

9. Bring Your Religion

10. Texas Cowboy Blues

11. Magdalina's Dance

12. Hey Pretty Girl

x

Track List: Running From Home

1. On The Edge Of A Dream (Rock Baby Rock Remix)

2. Black Cat Blues

3. Looking For Love

4. Crimson Moon

5. Sweet Death

8. The Mountain Streams

10. Lapwing

11. Bittern

12. The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face

13. The January Man

14. Sally Free And Easy

15. Nobody's Bar

16. Poison

17. Woe Is Love My Dear

18. Blackwaterside

19. Lucky Thirteen

20. Running From Home

x

Track List: River Sessions

1. Build Another Band (Live)

2. I've Got A Feeling (Live)

3. One For Jo (Live)

4. The Blacksmith (Live)

5. Travellin' Man (Live)

6. Lady Nothynge's Toye Puffe (Live)

7. Fresh As A Sweet Sunday Morning (Live)

8. Angi (Live)

9. Stone Monkey (Live)

10. Dance Lady Dance (Live)

11. When I Get Home (Live)

12. In The Bleak Midwinter (Live)

13. Running From Home (Live)

14. Chambertin (Live)

x

Track List: Dazzling Stranger

Disc 1

1. Strolling Down The Highway

2. Angie

3. Running From Home

4. Needle of Death

5. It Don't Bother Me

6. Lucky Thirteen

7. Blackwaterslide

8. The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face

9. Soho

10. Rabbit Run

11. Woe Is Love My Dear

12. Bells

13. Wishing Well

14. Poison

15. I Am Lonely

16. Train Song

17. Nobody's Bar

18. The January Man

19. Reynardine

20. Rosemary Lane

21. When I Get Home

22. Oh My Father

Disc 2

1. Yarrow

3. Blackbird In The Morning

6. I Sure Wanna Know

7. From The Inside

8. Playing The Game

10. Ladyfair

11. Three Dreamers

13. The Mountain Streams

14. Looking For Love

15. The River Bank

16. Toy Balloon

17. My Donal

18. Blues Run The Game

19. Downunder

20. October Song

x

Track List: Heartbreak

Disc 1

1. Blackwater Side

3. Up To The Stars

4. Is It Real?

5. Wild Mountain Thyme

6. Heartbreak Hotel

7. No Rhyme Nor Reason

8. If I Were A Carpenter

9. Give Me The Time

10. And Not A Word Was Said

Disc 2

1. Curragh Of Kildare (Live At McCabe's Guitar Shop)

2. Poor Mouth (Live At McCabe's Guitar Shop)

3. Blackwater Side (Live At McCabe's Guitar Shop)

4. One For Jo (Live At McCabe's Guitar Shop)

5. Let Me Sing (Live At McCabe's Guitar Shop)

6. If I Were A Carpenter (Live At McCabe's Guitar Shop)

7. Blues Run The Game (Live At McCabe's Guitar Shop)

9. Ask Your Daddy (Live At McCabe's Guitar Shop)

10. The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face (Live At McCabe's Guitar Shop)

11. Kingfisher (Live At McCabe's Guitar Shop)

12. Wild Mountain Thyme (Live At McCabe's Guitar Shop)

13. Come Back Baby (Live At McCabe's Guitar Shop)

14. I Am Lonely (Live At McCabe's Guitar Shop)

x

Track List: Santa Barbara Honeymoon

1. Love Anew

2. Mary And Joseph

3. Be My Friend

4. Baby Blue

5. Dance Lady Dance

6. You Are My Sunshine

7. Lost And Gone

8. Blues Run The Game

9. Build Another Band

10. When The Teardrops Fell

11. Dynamite

12. Buckrabbit

13. Build Another Band (Alternate Version)

15. Lady Nothing (Live)

16. Dance Lady Dance (Live)

17. Angie (Live)

18. One For Jo (Live)

x

Track List: L. A. Turnaround

1. Fresh As A Sweet Sunday Morning

2. Chambertin

3. One For Jo

4. Travelling Man

5. Open Up The Watergate (Let The Sunshine In)

6. Stone Monkey

7. Of Love And Lullaby

8. Needle Of Death

9. Lady Nothing

10. There Comes A Time

11. Cluck Old Hen

12. The Blacksmith

13. Open Up The Watergate (Alternate Version)

14. One For Jo (Alternate Version)

15. The Blacksmith (Alternate Version)

16. In The Bleak Midwinter

x

Track List: Moonshine

1. Yarrow

2. Brought With The Rain

3. The January Man

4. Night Time Blues

5. Moonshine

6. The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face

7. Rambleaway

8. Twa Corbies

9. Oh My Father

x

Track List: Bert Jansch

1. Strolling Down the Highway

2. Smokey River

3. Oh How Your Love Is Strong

4. I Have No Time

5. Finches

6. Veronica

7. Needle of Death

8. Do You Hear Me Now

9. Rambling's Gonna Be the Death of Me

10. Alice's Wonderland

11. Running From Home

12. Courting Blues

13. Casbah

14. Dreams of Love

15. Angie

16. Instrumental Medley (Finches, Alice's Wonderland, Do You Hear Me Now, Needle of Death)

17. Angie

x

Track List: Birthday Blues

1. Come Sing Me a Happy Song to Prove We Can All Get Along the Lumpy Bumpy Long and Dusty Road

2. The Bright New Year

3. Tree Song

4. Poison

5. Miss Heather Rosemary Sewell

6. I've Got a Woman

7. A Woman Like You

8. I Am Lonely

9. Promised Land

10. Birthday Blues

11. Wishing Well

12. Blues

x

Track List: Jack Orion

1. The Waggoner's Lad

2. First Time Ever I Saw Your Face

3. Jack Orion

4. The Gardener

5. Nottamun Town

6. Henry Martin

7. Blackwater Side

8. Pretty Polly

x

Track List: Nicola

1. Go Your Way My Love

2. Woe Is Love My Dear

3. Nicola

4. Come Back Baby

5. A Little Sweet Sunshine

6. Love Is Teasing

7. Rabbit Run

8. Life Depends On Love

9. Weeping Willow Blues

10. Box Of Love

11. Wish My Baby Was Here

12. If The World Isn't There

13. In This Game

14. Dissatisfied Blues

x

Track List: Rosemary Lane

1. Tell Me What Is True Love

2. Rosemary Lane

3. M'Lady Nancy

4. A Dream, A Dream, A Dream

5. Alman

6. Wayward Child

7. Nobody's Bar

8. Reynardine

9. Silly Woman

10. Peregrinations

11. Sylvie

12. Sarabanda

13. Bird Song

x

Track List: The Ornament Tree

1. The Ornament Tree (Bonny Portmore)

2. The Banks Of Sicily

3. The Ramblijng Boys Of Pleasure

4. The Rocky Road To Dublin

5. Three Dreamers

6. The Mountain Streams

7. The Blackbird Or Mullamore

8. LadyFair

9. The Road Tae Dundee

10. Tramps And Hawkers

11. The January Man

12. Dobbins Flower Vale

Comments

Report as inappropriate
Bert Jansch! Beautiful... . N e e d one say more?
Report as inappropriate
I don't believe in a personal afterlife, but I can see the appeal--ther e ' s something charming/com f o r t i n g about the idea that Bert and John are playing together (old animosities fading?) in some other dimension or place.
Report as inappropriate
When you people can write beautiful music, strum the Guitar like a pro then you may write... who cares what his voice sounds like! listen to the words or the la la la's. I figured I would write how I appreciate all the beautiful music so readily available at our finger tips! NOW! clap ur hands 3 times if you love music!!! Hahahahahhah h a h h a a h a h a h a h a a h h a h a h a h a h a h a h a h h a h a h ah! ahahahhaahha h a h a
Report as inappropriate
It's true he's not a great vocalist, but I find his work strangely moving when he sing's older folk (e.g. early, and Pentangle)-- h i s voice sounds so tired, and worldly-wise ; fits perfectly on something like The Snows They Melt the Soonest...
And almost no one can touch his guitar work, early or late.
Report as inappropriate
yybbu
why is it so many great musicians , have to bedevil amazing instrumental work with singing when they are not by any stretch of the imagination vocalists . That said brilliant finger picking ,that I'll miss Bert , RIP
Report as inappropriate
nmt1958
RIP Bert, you are missed. Your music lives on.
Report as inappropriate
WOW INCREDIBLE ACOUSTIC FINGER PICKING. JUST PHENOM!
Report as inappropriate
lilyhillmusi c
I was reading through the Jansch bio and was glad to see his artistry and influence given the credit it deserves...t h e n I learned that he died last fall......he must have splintered into a million points of musical light....
Report as inappropriate
jonrice.marm o t
Fair winds, Bert
Report as inappropriate
HE IS GONE---PASSE D AWAY---UNBEA R A B L E SADNESS---HI S MUSIC REMAINS WITH US!!!
Report as inappropriate
bsberg9
I will miss you, Bert. God bless.
Report as inappropriate
tlash86
phenomenal guitarist, great with Pentangle, Davey Graham, Gordon Giltrap have similar virtuosity.. . g o o d listens
Report as inappropriate
dclatter
House Band came right out of this.
Report as inappropriate
Wow. Never heard of him until minutes ago, and am amazed at the fingerpickin g . Just goes to show there are hundreds of truely great musicians out there for every one you've heard of. I struggle to play the beginner/int e r m e d i a t e fingerstyle songs. Hearing what he can do motivates me to keep on playing and practicing.
Report as inappropriate
you sure make a short cooki bert
Report as inappropriate
kexp 91.5fm and pseu braun on www. wfmu.org plays bert
Report as inappropriate
deford9
Rosemary Lane was one of the first albums I ever bought when I began my first job in a department store in Charlotte NC--at Ivey's. Browsing through the bins (in the olden days when you could still buy vinyl at a department store) I was taken by the cover and I still cannot stop listening and singing the songs. The title song is my favorite song to sing sans accompanimen t .
Report as inappropriate
Tasty....... . . . . . . g a r l i c ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! !
Report as inappropriate
grendelgrunt
High quality stuff.
Report as inappropriate
Mind-blowing guitarist and writer.
Report as inappropriate
Every pseudo-intel l e c t u a l folkie owes a creative debt to Jansch!
Report as inappropriate
I freely admit to being a worshipping disciple at the altar of the music of Bert Jansch....

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