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LPs from the Attic: Bert Jansch — It Don’t Bother Me

February 28, 2011

Bert Jansch — It Don’t Bother Me (Transatlantic/Castle Music, Ltd., 1965)

Bert Jansch - It Don't Bother Me

For fans of: Nick Drake, Leo Kottke, Fred Neil, Richard Thompson, Jimmy Page


While I’d love to be able to say I discovered them all by myself by digging through crates or by some trick of fate or precognition, the truth is that Robert Plant’s style and his list of favorite singers had a significant impact on my own. Whether you like his singing style or not, he has impeccable taste and a staggering mind for references and chronology. The Golden God knew golden pipes when he heard them, and I’m grateful for the handful of (mostly poorly written) band biographies that I had access to back in those dim days before Internet ubiquity. I can trace back my initial interest in Sandy Denny, Tim Buckley, and Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, to name just a few, to old interviews featured in those books. In fact, those interviews that reveal details about who the members of Led Zeppelin listened to when they were working on their own records, the bands that influenced them most and why, might be the only worthwhile thing you’ll find in, say, Hammer of the Gods, once you get past the cheap, empty thrills of motorcycles in hallways, fuzzy occultism, and red snappers.

But I digress.

If ole Percy influenced me in terms of my preferences in vocalists, then Jimmy Page played an equally important role in providing me with points of reference for his style, developed through years of eclectic session work. While it can be argued that he didn’t quite master every style he tried to copy, he did gain a wide-ranging competency in many. And the folk idiom was one that he had a particular fondness for in the early 70’s. The third Zep record, in particular, showed Page’s determination to communicate lightness of touch and delicacy as well as fiery bombast.”Babe, I’m Gonna Leave You” demonstrated that his admiration for Joan Baez was such to justify love and no small measure of theft. Both he and Plant dug CSN and especially Y, from the well-wrought guitar work to the tight vocal interplay.

Which finally brings me to my point: Scottish guitarist and founding member of Pentangle Bert Jansch (Pentangle being tied with Steeleye Span for second place in British folk-rock history, both behind Fairport Convention). Hugely influential in his own right, Jansch was said to have done for acoustic guitar what Hendrix did for electric playing by none other than Neil Young himself. His virtuosic mixture of blues and Celtic, American, and British Isles folk puts him in league with Fairport Convention’s Richard Thompson, while his solo acoustic playing and songwriting quickly reveals that another cult figure–Nick Drake–was surely a big fan.

“Lucky Thirteen” makes it obvious that Jimmy Page had Jansch’s second album, 1965’s It Don’t Bother Me, in his collection. The repetitive, interwined guitar figures are echoed in many of Page’s acoustic instrumental pieces, most notably “White Summer/Black Mountainside” (Zep I; check out Jansch’s version of the traditional Irish song “Down By the Black Waterside and compare it to Page’s) and “Bron-Yr-Aur” (disc one of Physical Graffiti). Both Jansch and Nick Drake were both influenced by Donovan’s early material, but both took that influence in far less pop-oriented directions.

The instrumental pieces featuring Jansch and John Renbourn (also together in Pentangle) prove masterful and emotionally resonant, and Jansch’s songwriting ranges in theme from topical (“Anti Apartheid”) to playful (“A Man I’d Rather Be”). Clearly, Drake borrowed more from Jansch’s fluid guitar lines than his thematic preoccupations. Jansch’s moods as reflected here are far more balanced, extroverted and trend positive in comparison to Drake’s sad, dark and inscrutable introversion.

It Don’t Bother Me is both an acoustic guitar-player’s and a folk songwriter’s record. If you haven’t heard any of his music (he’s still active, by the way–check out 2006’s Black Swan), you’ll know his style as it is reflected in the work of some of the biggest names in folk and rock history.

Recommended listening:
Lucky Thirteen
It Don’t Bother Me
900 Miles
“Anti Apartheid”

More LPs from the Attic:

Leo Kottke — Ice Water

Neil Young — Zuma

The Byrds — The Byrds

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