I've been a fan of Bert Jansch for around 12 or 13 years now, after discovering him very suddenly when given a spare ticket and an invite to one of his live shows in the North of England - I'd heard the name but never the music, and it was a bit of revelation!
Jansch has a style all his own - his guitar work is broken and nevertheless full, full of dazzling runs, hammers and chiming stops (as a semi-professional Jazz guitarist I can assure you of his tremendous skill!). His harmonies and resolutions are unique, and his voice is better described as beautiful than pretty - the fact that he makes it work is testament to his great musical powers!
This album marks a step further into the country influences that have appeared more and more in his work over the years - there is some great slide guitar and some lovely "pickin'" here, and although it doesn't always quite work, this is a soulful and sad album that still leaves you with a great faith in life and love. The lyrics are not always profound, but they are genuine without fail, and always pure Jansch.
The collaboration with Beth Orton is a little disappointing at times - the vocal harmonies they produce together are great, and Beth's voice suits much of the material, but at times it all feels a little too amateur - "Watch the Stars" is a very weak track, and it feels like they only included it because they wanted to sing together, not because it's a worthy inclusion. On the other hand "When The Sun Comes Up" shows Orton at her best, and is one of the standout tracks.
This is one of the best albums from Bert in recent years in my opinion - stripped back to the musical basics that set him apart. The title track is superb, and "Bring Your Religion" is a personal favourite. As usual, the best tracks are those where Bert simply sings and plays his guitar, and the tracks with lots of other instrumentation seldom come close for real feeling - "Texas Cowboy Blues" is a perfect example, very well performed but over-complicated and lacking any atmosphere.
Overall this is a cracking album, and I would highly recommend it to Jansch fans. Those unfamiliar with his work would be better to start elsewhere I think.