The Dazzling Stranger

Bert Jansch

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The Dazzling Stranger Review

by Zac Johnson

British guitar legend Bert Jansch has done far more constructive work (and certainly less damage) regarding authentic roots music than his fellow countryman Eric Clapton has, but tragically Jansch's works go relatively unnoticed, except for a fraction of the guitar-appreciating populace. Hopefully, Castle Music's anthology Dazzling Stranger can help to change that fact. Forty-two songs spread over two CDs tell the folk guitarist's story in chronological order from his Transatlantic recordings in 1964 through his home recordings in 2000, with an emphasis on his late-'60s and early-'70s works. His angular, interlacing fingerpicking influenced Neil Young, Nick Drake, and Jimmy Page (who included a version of Jansch's "Blackwaterslide" on Led Zeppelin's 1969 debut), and his fiery work with Pentangle are both represented here, as are his introspective and dark solo works and his slightly sunnier contemporary songs. His voice has maintained its unique, off-kilter qualities and possibly gotten richer with age, making his later recordings as enjoyable as his early ones. For anyone who has memorized the Nick Drake catalog, Dazzling Stranger is a necessary next purchase.

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