Just A Simple Soul
Sanctuary Records 2018
Review by David Bowling
Just A Simple Soul is a long overdue album as it gathers the best material from Bert Jansch’s 40 year solo recording career. As an added listening bonus, the 39 tracks are presented in chronological order, which enables the listener to appreciate the distinct periods of his career and the evolution of his music.
Jansch began his recording career in 1965 and over the next four decades released 25 solo albums. In addition, he was a founding member of Pentangle and would record and tour with the group for the rest of his life, 1967-1973, 1981-1995, 2007-2011 (his death). Pentangle emerged as on the most innovative and influential folk bands in music history as it combined traditional folk music with elements of jazz, blues, and rock.
Jansch was always able to bridge styles. His lyrics have always been folk oriented but the guitar work borders on the blues, similar to early Bob Dylan. He was one of the best acoustic guitarists of his era and his innovative and creative innovations are unmatched.
Any study of Jansch’s music begins with his ode to the passing of a friend, “Needle Of Death.” It is folk music at its distressing and painful best. Add in such songs as “Poison,” “Angie,” and “It Don’t Bother Me” and you have some of the better traditional folk music of the second half of the 1960’s.
For a time he was maintaining two careers; as a solo artist and member of a high profile band. “The First Time I Ever Say Your Face,” “Reynardine,” and “Moonshine” represent a more commercial approach apart from Pentangle.
From the 1990’s on, his music was reflective and at times simple. “Morning Brings Peace Of Mind,” “When The Circus Comes To Town,” “On The Edge Of A Dream,” and the title track are mesmerizing in their calmness and simplicity.
Jansch was a rare musician who was able to produce memorable music both within and outside of a band. When the best music of his solo career is gathered in one place; it forms one of the better listening experiences available.