Bert Jansch's approach to a traditional folk song is on full display in this recording of "Blackwaterside," made during a show at London's 12 Bar and originally released in 1995. It's an approach the Scottish singer-guitarist developed in the early 1960s; one that was more about evoking the mood and feel of a song than a slavish devotion to historical interpretation.
Jansch slurs and swallows the words in a style that owes as much to jazz improvisation — something that would come out even more dramatically in the group he co-founded in the late '60s, Pentangle — as it does traditional folk. You have to listen carefully to follow the story, told in the voice of a young woman spurned by a deceitful lover. But Jansch's guitar arrangement makes it truly stand out. He ditches a standard chordal accompaniment and brings his percussive, fingerpicked inventions to the fore — almost on equal footing with the words.
Jansch first recorded "Blackwaterside" for his third album, Jack Orion, in 1966. Even back then, the guitar part was so distinctive that Jimmy Page picked up on it — almost note for note — for his instrumental "Black Mountain Side," on Led Zeppelin's 1969 debut, without giving credit. With this new vinyl reissue of Live At The 12 Bar, out August 7 on Earth Recordings, listeners can hear Bert Jansch's unique guitar and voice, unfiltered.