Bert Jansch The Black Swan

With his early solo albums, and work with Pentangle being rightfully acknowledged as a major touchstone for the current generation of progressive folkies, the legendary guitarist has risen to the occasion with his finest album in at least two decades. Co-produced by Noah Georgeson, the man behind Joanna Newsom’s instant classic, Milk-Eyed Mender, The Black Swan returns Jansch to the mysterious places that made him the envy of every British guitarist from Jimmy Page to Johnny Marr. Jansch sounds just as vital here playing with more recent acolytes, Beth Orton, Devendra Banhart and Mazzy Star’s David Roback. But it is the strength of the songwriting — never Jansch’s strongest suit — that truly amazes. The opening coupling of the title track and "High Days” is enough to cast the spell that endures for the rest of the album, evoking the magical essence of contemporary British folk, which Jansch and a few others defined long before Nick Drake came to symbolise it. This is the blues, as purely as Britain can produce it, presented most concisely in Jansch’s haunting version of the Irish prison ballad "The Old Triangle.” The Black Swan is packed with such career-defining moments, making it easily one of the most important folk releases of the year. (Drag City)