Glasgow's leading exponent of the British folk revival, Bert Jansch's career is a magnificent journey that has seen his rich baritone voice and trademark fingerpicking guitar scarcely falter from his stunning 1964 debut. Dubbed as "the Jimi Hendrix of acoustic guitar" by none other than Neil Young and influencing three generations of guitarists, from Jimmy Page, Roy Harper, and Pete Townshend through to Johnny Marr and Thurston Moore, master six-stringers have all sung his praise in one way or another. Not to mention the folk artists to whom he is the high priest of "DADGAD," a special guitar tuning that accents the Eastern-sounding drone central to Anglo folk music. If his substantial solo career is not enough to mark the lifework of a genius, he formed one of the most influential loved-or-loathed U.K. folk-rock groups of the '60s in the Pentangle, which he shared with his lifelong collaborator and closest comparison John Renbourn. Conundrum is a temporal folk-rock ensemble he assembled from time to time during the '70s, '80s, and '90s, which centered around Jansch's playing and singing, but took in more covers and adaptations. For example, on this 1998 release he favored Tim Hardin's "If I Were a Carpenter" and even the King's "Heartbreak Hotel." With a lineup including Memphis guitar legend and Jansch admirer Albert Lee, drummer Luce Langridge, and Nigel Portman-Smith on bass, this group makes the basic backing band for the electrifying displays of Jansch and compatriot Martin Jenkins, whose mandolin, violin, and vocals put him only slightly left of center stage. In fact, the muti-instrumentalist shines on Jansch standards "Kingfisher," "Let Me Sing," and "Love Is Lost." The air of Conundrum is not half as bleak or desperate as Bert Jansch can often sound solo, and the uplifting and playful sound of this album is one made by friends jamming and having fun. Friends who are all masters of their art in any case.
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