One Track Mind: Nick Drake, “Reckless Jane” from The Phoenix and the Turtle (2014)

That there was unheard music from Nick Drake, dead four decades now, is one thing. That is as delicate and funny as “Reckless Jane” makes it all the more of a wonder.

The cult singer wrote and recorded the song at Beverley Martyn’s home early in 1974, the same year he would shockingly overdose at just 26. To that point, his three studio albums had gained little wide notice. But in time, Drake’s doomy romanticism would come to be seen as an important influence on bands like the Cure and R.E.M., as well as Kate Bush, David Silvian, Lucinda Williams, Beck and Ben Folds.

Still, after so long — and in the wake of a career-spanning retrospective called Tuckbox, released late last year — “Reckless Jane” arrives with new insights. Seems Martyn held onto the song, one of the final new things to have come from Drake’s fertile imagination, but couldn’t bear to finish it because of the pain still caused by Drake’s loss.

Finally, even as a reissue of his 1969 debut Five Leaves Left is set for reissue later in the year, Martyn is sharing “Reckless Jane” with the world. The song, which will be part of her own forthcoming Turtle and the Phoenix, due on April 22, 2014, sounds at once like a desperate plea for a lost lover’s return but also an opportunity for some charmingly lyrical shenanigans. In other words, it’s the perfect Nick Drake song, heard somehow for the very first time.

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Nick DeRiso

Over a 30-year career, Nick DeRiso has also explored music for USA Today, All About Jazz, Ultimate Classic Rock and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the nation by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Contact him at nderiso@somethingelsereviews.com.