Bert Jansch - Living In The Shadows Part 2: On The Edge Of A Dream

by Kevin Orton Rating:10 Release Date:2017-04-28

There’s a strong case to be made for Bert Jansch being one of Rock’s most influential guitarists. Despite the fact, he’s always been a Folky. His praises have been sung from the likes of Neil Young and Johnny Marr. His impact on Jimmy Page is undeniable. Despite any ups and downs or being waved off by the whims of fashion, Jansch was always been a guitarist’s guitarist. An artist’s artist. One who’s legacy continues to grow even after his death. Never is that more evident than on this collection, which covers Jansch’s late career revival.

Hope Sandoval, Johnny Marr and Beth Orton are just a few of the talents who jumped at the chance to record with Jansch in the 21st Century. Never have the results sounded more timeless. When Crimson Moon was released in 2000, Jansch was 60 and had been recording for 35 years. Heralded as a “return to form”, the truth is, Jansch does what he’s always done. Mixing Folk, Jazz and Blues in his own unique style. Singing of roads, rovers, murderers and love. Having the likes of Bernard Butler and Johnny Marr on electric guitar only sweeten the deal. Among the highlights are the title track and an eerie, atmospheric take on the classic murder ballad, ‘Omie Wise’.  Also notable is a stab at the Incredible String Band’s classic, ‘October Song’.  Jansch’s son and daughter also put in appearances on bass and vocals, respectively. In terms of his output in the 90’s, Crimson Moon it’s far less dated in terms of production and ranks as one of his strongest releases in a decade.

Jansch’s 22nd album, Edge of A Dream followed in 2002 and is just as consistent and vital as its predecessor. ‘All This Remains’, his collaboration with Mazzy Star’s Hope Sandoval is pure heaven to my ears. I’ve always loved her languid voice and it’s a dream hearing her paired with Jansch’s formidable playing. ‘Black Cat Blues’ goes to show Jansch never lost his edge. On the closer, ‘Bright Sunny Morning’ he tackles the most difficult of current events: the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. Jansch’s unassuming approach makes for devastating results. Potent and powerful. I confess, it sends a deep chill, having been in New York on that awful day. Springsteen bravely tackled the subject with his album, The Rising, but here Jansch’s stark simplicity really hits close to bone. It’s not an easy song for me to listen to but it is a very potent song nevertheless. The kind Woody Guthrie or a young Dylan might have written.

Sadly, Black Swan turned out to be Jansch’s 23rd and last LP. It proved to be one of Jansch’s more eclectic and daring releases. Released by the Indie label, Drag City, it has a directness on par with Jansch’s first album. The title track has the lush sparseness of Leonard Cohen’s classic 60’s albums. Speaking of the 60’s, ‘High Days’ is bedsit haunting and spare. The kind of song that goes well with a grey autumn day. A full band kicks in on the Bluesy, ‘When The Sun Comes Up’, featuring Beth Orton. Orton returns for a commendable rendition of ‘Katie Cruel’. But I must confess, it doesn’t hold a candle to Karen Dalton’s stark, devastating version off of In My Own Time.  Being a longtime Dalton devotee, Jansch and Orton sounds like they’re paying tribute to Dalton, more than anything else. Orton is also featured on wistful, ‘Watch the Stars’. Elsewhere, ‘My Pocket’s Empty’ is quintessential Bert Jansch. ‘A Woman Like You’ is one of the most arresting among the Jansch originals. His version of Brendan Behan’s ‘The Old Triangle’ is one of the finest I’ve ever heard. And that’s saying a lot in light of The Pogues’ brilliant and near definitive version. ‘Texas Cowboy Blues’ is as raucous as Jansch gets while ‘Magdalina’s Dance’ is an evocative and haunting instrumental. ‘Hey Pretty Girl’ is an alluring close to a brilliant swansong.

Of course, a collection like this would not be complete without unreleased tracks. There’s some demo versions which are interesting but not essential. Among the completely unreleased the instrumentals, ‘Untitled’ and ‘Chamberlin’ show off Jansch’s legendary virtuosity.

One can track down Jansch’s last three albums but in this age of downloading, here they are all in one place. With some extras. While Living In The Shadows Part One concisely chronicles Jansch’s most dated and underrated period, Part 2 finds Jansch at the top of his game and at his most consistent. 

Essential listening.

 

Overall Rating (1)

3.5 out of 5 stars