Bert Jansch

Strolling Down the Highway

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Bert Jansch was one of the most distinctive figures on the British folk scene of the '60s and '70s, both as a solo act and as a member of the group Pentangle. Jansch's evocative songwriting, commanding vocals, and muscular yet buoyant guitar work made a lasting impression on more than one generation of musicians. The '60s and '70s were Jansch's heyday, but he remained musically active throughout his life, and Strolling Down the Highway documents a solo concert he played in Sheffield, England in April 2006, five years before he succumbed to lung cancer. Strolling Down the Highway is a no-frills, warts-and-all recording that captures Jansch on a good but not exceptional night. His guitar work is excellent here, not flashy but full of force and boasting a sure feel for both the bright and dark side of these melodies. His vocals are good, though his instrument (always on the rough side) is sandy in spots, and on a few songs his coughing briefly interrupts the tunes. The set list is a solid mix of old favorites, traditional British folk numbers, and a few well-chosen covers (including confident interpretations of "Blues Run the Game" and "Trouble in Mind"). Strolling Down the Highway never sounds rote, but at the same time this performance lacks a certain fire; Jansch was in good form on this evening, but the circumstances didn't push him to do anything exceptional, and ultimately this plays out as an average night in the life of a great talent. That's not to say it won't please fans of the great man. Those fans might want to check their collections before buying Strolling Down the Highway, though; this same concert was previously released in 2007 under the title Fresh as a Sweet Sunday Morning, though the retitled release does come with a bonus DVD with a pro-shot video of the same concert.

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