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  Listen Up! 7/14/03 Listen Up!

Monday, July 14

Bert Jansch, “Heartbreak,” Rykodisc. It’s 1981, and Bert Jansch is leading yet another assortment of musicians through old English folk songs. By this time, he’s been doing this sort of thing for almost two decades, but he was still hungry, still searching for new approaches to the old forms. This time around, he’s accompanied by Albert Lee, who’s just left Emmylou Harris’s Hot Band. The interplay between these two distinctive guitarists forms the heart of this record, though Randy Tico’s bass playing is mighty important, too. I wish Jansch was a better singer – there’s a reason I like his work in Pentangle best of all, and it has to do with his lack of vocal contributions – but his arrangement of songs obscure and familiar can’t be questioned here. In particular, this album features one of the most yearning, questing versions of “Wild Mountain Thyme” I’ve ever heard. Jansch would soon retreat somewhat from the constant stretching of folk music’s parameters. He’s still a great player, but by the mid-80s, he was reinforcing what he’d done before rather than seeking to do something new. This isn’t exactly an apex, then, but it’s a fine document of a musician who knows that to know it all means you can’t ever stop asking questions.

Dillinger, “Under Heavy Manners: The Best of Dillinger,” Burning Bush Records. Dillinger was one of those 70s reggae DJs who toasted over hard hitting rhythm tracks. His biggest hit was “Cocaine In My Brain,” familiar from many compilations of the period. This compilation has sixteen similar tracks, all of them worthy of consideration, none of them being as immediately memorable. Still, Dillinger’s approach, alternately aggressively attacking the riddims and laying back behind them, is an engaging one. He can’t be accused of being repetitious, a claim many superficial listeners to reggae toasters will apply to many in the genre.

--Steve Pick

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