Bert Jansch – Live At The 12 Bar

Bert Jansch - Live At The 12 Bar

Bert Jansch – Live At The 12 Bar

Since early-2014 Earth Recordings has followed a mixture of directions in establishing itself as a more boutique-shaped London answer to the likes of Light In The Attic, Rhino Handmade and Omnivore; shifting between a bare-bones reissue of Jackson C. Frank’s eponymous 1965 LP, a reupholstering of the sole album from Antipodean acid-folker Howard Eynon and a lavish multi-artist tribute to Shirley Collins with Shirley InspiredWith a vinyl-driven series rounding-up rarities from early-Fairport Convention singer Judy Dyble set to drop later this year, the label’s lateral modus operandi in honouring revered yet sometimes misplaced artists seems to cementing into something quite special.

The latest release from Earth takes another interesting resuscitation route, this time for the late and oft-anthologised Bert Jansch.  Whilst, the minimalist sleeve illustration captures Jansch as a rake-thin mid-‘60s folk-club troubadour, the live recording pressed into its grooves and packaged as an official bootleg, was actually captured on DAT in Soho’s 12 Bar Club in 1995.  Yet, in a way the sleeve also illustrates that despite his many in-between years as a prolific solo journeyman and as a member of the pioneering Pentangle, Jansch was perhaps still at heart a man most at home with his guitar, his voice and a dedicated live audience.

Featuring Jansch in a sober place of low-key recovery after a sometimes difficult 1980s – troubled by a second less successful incarnation of Pentangle and alcohol-related illness – but still some years away from being more extensively re-celebrated by a younger wave of devotees like Beth Orton and Devendra Banhart, Live At The 12 Bar is the sound of stoic survivor refortifying himself through reconnecting to his roots.  Consequently, the live document – previously only available as a limited self-released tour CD – has a rather dry ascetic quality whilst containing a near-ageless rustic warmth, which would have been hard to find for some against the contemporary backdrop hullabaloo of Britpop.

Bert Jansch - Live At The 12 Bar (vinyl edition)

Bert Jansch – Live At The 12 Bar (vinyl edition)

Playing cuts from his then 1995 minor-comeback album When The Circus Comes To Town and his failsafe early-repertoire, alongside a few more scattered catalogue flashbacks, Live At The 12 Bar takes a broad career sweep whilst remaining remarkably cohesive.  Hence, touchstone standards such as “Blackwaterside”, “Strolling Down The Highway”, “Fresh As A Sweet Sunday Morning” and a take on now-posthumous-labelmate Jackson C. Frank’s “Blues Run The Game” all masterfully unfurl as unbreakable romantic rambler anti-anthems.  Elsewhere, the then still-fresh “Walk Quietly By” and “Summer Heat” starkly merge the worlds of bone-dry blues and skeletal folk as if they’d been plucked from a songbook kept in a dusty attic space for thirty or so years.

Whilst a few more Bert Jansch classics like “Needle Of Death” and his own rendition of Davy Graham’s “Angie” might have defined Live At The 12 Bar as a more complete go-to on-stage snapshot, its intimacy and strength still marks it out as an essential fan-friendly re-addition to his labyrinthine catalogue, which is due for further exploration via Earth Recordings in the near-future.

Earth Recordings