Ramblin’ Jack Elliott - A Stranger Here

Woody Guthrie’s disciple goes back to his roots

Inter-war blues is territory that’s
already been explored by Ry
Cooder and Taj Mahal, but it’s
occupied comfortably by
Ramblin’ Jack. At 77 he’s just
about old enough to remember
it first time round but, just as
importantly, he learned at the
feet of the great Depression
balladeer Woody Guthrie.

Elliott’s timeworn voice –
sometimes fragile, sometimes
strong – delivers this well chosen
selection of material over
arrangements that range from
New Orleans marching band to
old-timey string instruments and
accordion. On a couple of tracks
the brass bass seems to
overwhelm the basement studio
that producer Joe Henry
recorded in, resulting in a muddy
mix, though most of it is clear
and well separated.

There’s some superb support
playing (is that Van Dyke Parks
tickling the ivories in a Dr John
style?) and it seems appropriate
to have this material put back
on the table in these financially
straitened times. The 10 songs are more How Can A Poor Man
Stand Such Times & Live than
Fishing Blues but, though they’re
of the Depression, they’re not
depressing – like the blues
generally, the survival of
hardship is celebrated as an
affirmation of life, and Ramblin’
Jack has done enough living for
two lifetimes.

4 stars 4 stars 4 stars 4 stars

Anti | 27005-2a

Reviewed by Tim Holmes
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