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Published: 2012/11/01
by Bill Murphy

Bert Jansch
Heartbreak [30th Anniversary Edition]


By the time Bert Jansch was literally dragged into Hollywood’s Silverlake Studios in June 1981 to record Heartbreak, critics were insisting his best work was behind him. As Glasgow’s answer to Dylan and Donovan, Jansch had transformed folk music into an exploratory vehicle—prompting Jimmy Page, for example, to purloin the Eastern-sounding “Blackwaterside” for Led Zeppelin’s “Black Mountain Side”—but by the end of the ’70s, Jansch’s group Pentangle was long gone, and his solo albums had grown increasingly obscure. Heartbreak didn’t resurrect him, but it did show why he deserved a seat among folk-rock royalty. Initiated and produced by the starry-eyed Chelew brothers, the sessions—as well as the live set included here, recorded at a local club the same weekend—find Jansch in rejuvenated form. With a band behind him that includes British guitar ace Albert Lee and drummers Matt Betton and Jack Kelly, he cuts loose on a revamped version of “Blackwaterside” and taps into Americana on “Is It Real?” and “No Rhyme Nor Reason.” And as wacky as his blues-rock arrangement of Elvis Presley’s “Heartbreak Hotel” still sounds today, it rings with sincerity. Jansch could harness emotional pain with devastating irony—the true mark of the troubadour.

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