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Ramblin' Jack Elliott

A Stranger Here – 2009 (Anti-)

Reviewed by John Lupton

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CDs by Ramblin' Jack Elliott

Now in his late 70s, Ramblin' Jack Elliott has been a presence on the American folk music scene for more than a half-century, and other than Woody Guthrie's own kids is pretty much the last direct link to Guthrie and the Depression-era folk music that Elliott grew up on. A large part of that music was the "country blues" being performed and recorded by people like Mississippi John Hurt, Rev. Gary Davis, Son House and Blind Lemon Jefferson. Elliott pays tribute to all these and more on this new disc that reprises classics like Davis' Death Don't Have No Mercy and Jefferson's Rising High Water Blues.

Elliott is backed here by a full band including piano, vibraphone, accordion, Dobro (and its Weissenborn cousin) and drums. Elliott plays guitar, though his signature, idiosyncratic flatpicking style is largely absent. He's still in good voice though, and the arrangements faithfully replicate the original Depression-era sound. In more than 50 years, Elliott has released only a dozen or so albums, so any new release from him is noteworthy in and of itself, but in this case it's more than worthwhile musically.