HEY! Get updates to this and the CD and 7" blogs via Twitter: @VinylUnderbite

2 November 2017

Bert Jansch - 'Rosemary Lane' (Reprise)

It's 1971 now, and the Pentangle records are still coming but they've arguably passed their creative peak of the Sweet Child/Basket of Light/Cruel Sister era. Jansch put out a solo record called Nicola (after Birthday Blues) but I've never heard it, so we have to skip ahead and check in with him at this point. And this one is very much back to being a traditionalist folk record, albeit with a crisp and slightly glowing production that makes it sound far different in tone, atmosphere and harmonic space than those early releases on Transatlantic/Vanguard. The acoustic guitar is as closely recorded as on Bert and John, but it's warmer, in that wonderful way the slightest alterations in recording can totally change the sound of a singer-songwriter - perhaps the capsule was tilted at a different angle, scanning a different part of the fretboard. The material is mostly original Jansch acoustic compositions, but features a few covers and traditional numbers. 'Reynardine' is a familiar one for Fairport fans, and his interpretation is strongly affected yet warm, as he seems to be focused on intoning delicately. This vocal approach is heard on the sweet, romantic parts of this record, such as opening cut 'Tell Me What Is True Love?', which is chillingly beautiful. The instrumentals here are very stark and carefully composed, far away from any more rollicking Fahey-esque movement, 'Sarabanda' being a 16th century violin tune. They serve as nice boundaries between the lyrics, and there's a good thought to this sequencing. 'Bird Song' is the closer, which according to the liner notes is about his impressions of 'America and the American people'. Nothing like the Holy Modal Rounders tune of the same name, it's more Animal Farm, telling of the different types of birds which we must take as metaphors. It feels more scientific than sociopolitical, closer to the previous record's 'Tree Song', but therein lies the genius of songwriting. I feel like in pushing through these Jansch records, eight in a row, as much as I enjoy them it's hard for me to really give myself to them, so anxious am I to get to Joseph Jarman. And admittedly this is one of the ones I always forget about, but it's (like all of theme) a perfectly pleasant way to pass a half hour.

No comments:

Post a Comment