Various Artists - People on the Highway - A Bert Jansch Encomium 2 x CDs

"A wonderfully diverse 2CD set with handsome packaging. … a definitive collection of great artists … required listening and a must-have. Your collection of British folk won't be complete without this."-George Maida, WCVE Radio, Richmond, MA, USA

"These tribute affairs can be disappointing. Producers of said tributes tend to err in one of two ways -- either they line up too many big stars who have little or no connection with the artist in tribute, or they get a bunch of (practically) record label-less punk/thrash bands who have absolutely no connection with the artist in tribute. The former suffers from an "I wonder how it would sound if Elton did 'Voodoo Chile'?" syndrome, while the latter brings a "Sod it -- let's trash the old fart's music beyond recognition!" mentality to the tribute table. Thus, one is much relieved to report that People on the Highway: A Bert Jansch Encomium is a loving, considered tribute (encomium, if you must) by artists who have either played with Jansch or whose music is complementary to that of Jansch. Also, the collection's 26-song, two-CD length gives a full, studied portrait of this English folk master's work. Jansch's style of folk has always owed as much to blues and jazz as it does to folk. His note-bending, expressive singing approach ascends and descends as mood takes, giving his songs a sly edge that is difficult to duplicate. Hence, it is the artists on this compilation whose voices most resemble Jansch's who tend to be the most effective. Jansch's meandering, heavy-to-light-to-heavy guitar technique, darting through minor and major lines at will, is practically impossible to copy and, to their credit, few on this set even attempt it. Though most of the artists encomium-izing here are English, Boston folkie Chris Smither turns in a solid rendition of "Strolling Down the Highway" that neatly captures the Jansch mumble'n'walk-it formula. His guitar playing, deftly bending into minor keys, is the closest approximation of the Jansch method on Encomium. Two savvy "finds" for this release are the contributions of veteran, though little-known, British folk legends Duffy Power and Wizz Jones. Power, who played harmonica behind Jansch on Birthday Blues in 1969, gives a smoky, living-room version of "I Was Lonely" that, although sounding more like John Martyn, effectively conveys the dolorous angst of the lyrics. Jones, Jansch's good friend and (sort of) mentor, covers "Fresh as a Sweet Sunday Morning" in a relaxed, unruffled manner, ably abetted by son Simeon on the flute. Other highlights include some dead-on Jansch imitations by Steve Ashley, Al "Year of the Cat" Stewart, and Rod Clements on, respectively, "It Don't Bother Me," "Soho," and "Rambling's Gonna Be the Death of Me." However, the hands-down winner of the "Sounds the Most Like Bert" contest has to be former Jansch sideman Martin Jenkins on "Sweet Mother Earth." In fact, he sounds so much like Jansch, one suspects a ringer (Bert himself). "The ladies" are also heard on this fine compilation. Maggie Boyle, who, according to the liner notes, is Jansch's favorite female singer, delivers "Bird Song" in a moaning, traditional folk mode closer to Sandy Denny than to Jacqui McShee. Steve Anstee on cello "sings" second lead nicely with his bow. Polly Bolton gets Enya-ish on "Blackwater Side," though her agile, aching voice eventually wins the day over the over-echoed arrangement. People on the Highway: A Bert Jansch Encomium is a most worthy tribute to a most worthy artist. A special nod of thanks must go to head compiler and point man Colin Harper for his smart artist choices and adept production."-Steve Cooper/All Music Guide
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