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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, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

Comments

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.
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
nmt1958
RIP Bert, you are missed. Your music lives on.
WOW INCREDIBLE ACOUSTIC FINGER PICKING. JUST PHENOM!
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....
jonrice.marm o t
Fair winds, Bert
HE IS GONE---PASSE D AWAY---UNBEA R A B L E SADNESS---HI S MUSIC REMAINS WITH US!!!
bsberg9
I will miss you, Bert. God bless.
tlash86
phenomenal guitarist, great with Pentangle, Davey Graham, Gordon Giltrap have similar virtuosity.. . g o o d listens
dclatter
House Band came right out of this.
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.
you sure make a short cooki bert
kexp 91.5fm and pseu braun on www. wfmu.org plays bert
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 .
grendelgrunt
High quality stuff.
Mind-blowing guitarist and writer.
Every pseudo-intel l e c t u a l folkie owes a creative debt to Jansch!
I freely admit to being a worshipping disciple at the altar of the music of Bert Jansch....

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