Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Bert Jansch, 1943-2011

Bert Jansch was a remarkably driven and talented guitarist who came into the public eye during the 1960s folk revival in Britain. His hands and mind merged the currents of different folk traditions from both sides of the Atlantic and beyond, combining elements of the blues, country songsters, Indian ragas and balladeering in an inimitable style that has defined and influenced other guitarists ever since. He worked solo and alongside other folk and folk-rock luminaries in the group Pentangle, as well as sharing the spotlight with his friend and fellow six-string iconoclast Davy Graham.

Bert died this morning after a long battle with lung cancer. This post is a prayer and a message of thanks. Please enjoy some of his music and if you really like it, seek out his albums to purchase. They are treasures, every one of them. If you're curious about his recorded output, I recommend starting with his self-titled album Bert Jansch, then listen to Rosemary Lane, and the late-career gem Black Swan. Notable Pentangle albums with Jansch include Cruel Sister and Basket of Light.

The first time I heard Bert Jansch I was 15 and I was so blown away by what I heard that I sat in my room for the rest of the afternoon trying to play along with the album. I couldn't keep up but it didn't stop me from trying. It wasn't long before I hooked onto other British guitarists from the era like Davy Graham and John Renbourn. It was downhill from there and I discovered all other sorts of music and styles of playing the acoustic guitar. Suddenly, Jimmy Page didn't seem so original. No offense is intended, I love Jimmy Page, but his open-tuning acoustic style was firmly rooted in the work done by Jansch, Graham and others.

Rest in peace, Bert. You brought happiness to many people.

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