Ramblin’ Jack Elliott
A Stranger Here
In the world of folk music and blues and other aboriginal music, there’s always a big deal about “authenticity.” To my MP3-addled brain, that seems to mean shellac discs recorded in an outhouse with a sewing needle and a spent can of beans, or a WPA project wire recording that formerly held the bumper on a Model T stranded in Dust Bowl Oklahoma. All that may be well and fine for the folk historian, but some of us prefer to hear our folk music recorded in wondrous high fidelity by an engineer who knows what the red area on the meter means, and that sort of sound comes from Ramblin’ Jack Elliot. In the extremely florid bio notes in this excellent CD, we find he grew up in New York and went to the rodeo at the age of 11, then took off for the American heartland to live the life of the brokeback working man. However he picked up his style, he’s carried the legacy of Woody Guthrie into the new century, adding the voice of a well-fed and well-bred white man. He even picked up a proper blues name; his real moniker “Elliot Charles Adnopoz” was a bit too ethnic for the genre.
With all that background out of the way, this is an excellent collection of authentic music cleaned up and arranged for the modern iPod. You’ll fall in love with the opening cut “Rising High Water Blues” — not only is the river rising, but his girl done kicked him out or is about to, and she may be less forgiving than Tiger Woods’ woman. The arrangements are loose, with top-notch studio musicians that purposely didn’t rehearse, they just sat down and played the songs, picking up the rhythm and pace from each other just like any good jam session ought to. By “Soul of A Man,” you’ll be on your third Pabst and either crying to some stranger about a love that dumped you 20 years ago, or hitting on an overweight bar fly who’ll dump you quicker, but with less pain. Jack made his choice; on the next cut he opens with “Give Me Red Lipstick… ” so he might be cutting in on your territory, although it’s nothing personal, and soon enough you hit blues rock-bottom with the last call number “Please Remember Me,” a melancholy farewell song. That’s the blues — seeking love, screwing it up, and moving on to the next gig. Mr. Ramblin’ may not have been born to the blues, but he’s moved in and taken over, and done a hell of a job with the style.
Ramblin’ Jack Elliott: ramblinjack.com