It will be the third issue of the Shrieking Violet to be dedicated to the memory of a musician who soundtracked my teenage years and passed away prematurely: Issue 8 was finished in April 2010, coinciding with the death of my musical hero Alex Chilton (Box Tops/Big Star) at the age of 59, and Trish Keenan of Broadcast passed away just as I was finishing issue 12, aged only 42.
One of the most compelling arguments for owning records (or books) in a physical format is that you never forget how you came into possession of those that sum up certain stages of your life.
As a big fan of folk and blues guitarists like John Fahey, I’d heard a lot about Bert Jansch but it wasn’t until a trip to Ireland after my A-levels to meet the editor of a fanzine I had been contributing to that I bought The Best of Bert Jansch (along with Fakebook by Yo La Tengo and a Hank Williams boxset, both of whom also became major musical obsessions) from a cosy, crowded record cum bookshop in Dublin. The record came to define the end of that summer, the changes in my life as I moved away from home to start university, and the passing of the days into autumn; there’s a darkness and sadness to Bert’s music behind its delicate, fingerpicked beauty and I have always thought that Bert’s was a music for the drawing in of the days, falling of leaves from the trees and the brief intensity of autumn light.
What makes Bert’s music for me is his warm, personal voice, which is one of the most distinctive and recognisable I’ve come across. As well as being one of my favourite guitarists, he’s also one of my favourite singers: his voice is plain, unadorned and unaffected. Bert’s is singing how it should be, unflashy and unshowy, complementary to rather than distracting from the guitar melodies which are at the centre of his songs.
As a shy, awkward teenager, when I started university my love of musicians like Bert Jansch helped me make friends. A fellow guitarist lived in my flat in halls and we traded CDs, introducing me to Bert Jansch’s 1968 album Birthday Blues.
This summer I stumbled across The Pentangle’s absolutely magical 1969 LP Basket of Light for £1 at a car boot sale at the end of my parents' road in Kent, a record I had long coveted on vinyl. Returning home, I rushed to put it on the stereo. My mum, who was lucky enough to be teenager during punk and post-punk, protested loudly and turned it off; she couldn’t stand it. In a reversal of the usual parent-child relationship, my taste in whimsical, gentle, introspective folk music made me a rebel!
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