various artists,
People on the Highway:
A Bert Jansch Encomium

(Market Square, 2003)

This double CD with 26 tracks is a roll call of the best in contemporary folk music. It is compiled as a tribute to the excellent Bert Jansch, who has been such an influence on the folk scene, particularly in the UK and Europe since he bought his first guitar in Edinburgh back in 1960.

There is probably no better way to review the album than to pick a random sampling of the performers and songs.

Few people are not familiar with "Streets of London" by Ralph McTell. His voice is distinctive and his lyrics always thoughtful. On this CD, he gives us a beautiful rendition of "Running From Home."

Donovan was a top UK performer from the 1960s when he was rather unfairly called the British Bob Dylan. Donovan always had a softer voice and performed some excellent songs from his own pen. He gives us a spirited version of "Do You Hear Me Now?" Roy Harper presents a heartfelt song titled "Needle of Death." (I am delighted to note that both the preceding tracks were recorded in Ireland, where the performers now reside.)

"Bird Song" by Maggie Boyle is a highlight on a double CD of highlights. The same must be said of Eleanor McEvoy's contribution, "Where Did My Life Go?" If you buy the CD for one track it would be "Love is Pleasing," performed by Steve Benbow with just guitar accompaniment. He first played it in 1957 -- now there is a living tradition.

This album is fantastic and could be either the basis of a folk library or an essential addition.

The insert booklet is all that such a publication should be. It gives an excellent short introduction to Jansch along with photos, background to performers and to the songs. Sadly, if the lyrics were to be included it would never have fitted the CD cover.

- Rambles
written by Nicky Rossiter
published 10 July 2004

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