Lisa O’Neill’s remarkable fourth album, Heard a Long Gone Song is a work that commands attention. As honest and creative as it is arresting; her mix of collected and self-written, traditional and contemporary song has earned high praise, and justifiably so. With the influence of traditional song stronger than in any of her previous albums, both in terms of content and approach, it’s not so much a change in direction for the County Cavan artist, it’s an entirely relevant exploration of the background to her music [ . . . ]
I would like to say that I like Just A Simple Soul, a new reflection on the work of Bert Jansch. Well, I do like it, really like it, but the word ‘like’ doesn’t have the sort feel that I wish to convey.
Perhaps it will be easier to tell you about the album and you might see what I am trying to say. I first thought that this collection was worth looking at in detail because I like Bert Jansch, but also because Bernard Butler listened to Bert’s albums after he died and wished that he had asked Bert some questions. He rather wished that he had asked Bert about the tunes, about the playing. About the songs that passed Bernard by until a later hearing. We all do that. Something doesn’t register for a long time and then it gets in, under the skin and it’s there a lot longer than those that grab us straight away.
The reason this is important is that Bernard Butler is a musician, a guitarist, and was once a member of Suede. Having someone, a professional musician, having a view on another musician adds an extra something, an ability to judge and an ability to pick, perhaps, based on different criteria. Therefore, I thought that this compilation of Bert’s work must have something going for it. Most of his original albums are available and then there has been the recent releases by Earth Recordings that covers almost all of his catalogue. But these are fine if you want the full set or just a particular period.
What makes Just A Simple Soul worthwhile is that it spans all his work. Across two CDs there are 39 tracks that take us from the start to as near to the end as dammit. And I will say how much I like that fact that the first track is Strolling Down The Highway, thus explicitly avoiding that cliché of every Bert Jansch homage gig of finishing with it [ . . . ]