Black Music Matters Festival

Ramblin' Jack Elliott enters studio

Monday, August 18, 2008 – Ramblin' Jack Elliott entered the studio with producer Joe Henry (Bettye LaVette, Solomon Burke, Elvis Costello/Allen Toussaint) to record the follow-up to his Anti- Records debut, 2006's "I Stand Alone." Elliott, 77, sings and plays acoustic guitar, and is backed by musicians including Van Dyke Parks, Brian Wilson's collaborator on "SmiLE," and David Hidalgo of Los Lobos fame on guitar.

Together, musician and producer examine a carefully selected number of pre-WWII blues songs. "Jack Elliot had never approached this music before," said Henry, "but it's important to understand that many of the country blues masters represented here were friends of Jack's. These blues share a tremendous amount - in both form and substance - with the folk music of the same era, the 1930s; and few people made any such distinctions during that day. Everybody was dipping from the same stream, be it Woody Guthrie or Tampa Red, Jimmie Rodgers or Furry Lewis; and Jack drank it all in. His approach is fresh, but authentic. He's using an old language, but he's speaking in the present tense."

The CD will be out next year.

As a budding musician, Jack developed his voice under the tutelage of Woodrow Wilson Guthrie, truck hitching across the country off and on for a couple of years with Guthrie, carrying "only razors and guitars." The pair eventually landed in Topanga Canyon Cal. in the 1950s, where Elliott played for James Dean and stole his girl (who later became Elliott's first wife). On the other coast, Elliott was also a fixture of the Greenwich Village scene, and once spent "three days and a lot of wine" listening to Jack Kerouac read "On the Road." But it is his relationship with a young Bob Dylan that Elliott is perhaps most famous for. Though back in the 1960s the up-and-coming Dylan was often mistakenly dubbed the "son of Jack Elliott," today Elliott simply states "Dylan learned from me the same way I learned from Woody."

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CD reviews for Ramblin' Jack Elliott

A Stranger Here CD review - A Stranger Here
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 »»»
The Long Ride
Ramblin' Jack Elliot, with his shaky yet sure voice, has been telling stories for longer than some of us have been alive, and with this, his story trail continues undeterred. The song selection supports the idea that a great story is a great story - no matter how old or young it is. If that were not true, than why does Elliott sound equally convincing on a new Tom Waits and Kathleen Brennan song "Pony" and the Stones' "Connection," as he does on so many of these public domain numbers? Elliott »»»
Friends of Mine
We should all be lucky enough to have Jerry Jeff Walker, Emmylou Harris and Tom Waits for friends. We should all lucky enough to have lived and toured with Woody Guthrie or influenced Bob Dylan early in his career. And while most of us can't, Ramblin' Jack Elliot can. As a human confluence of 40 years of people, places and songs, Elliot draws from a bottomless well of experience in this series of duets. He recalls his earliest influence with Guthrie's "Hard Travelin'," and his Greenwich Village »»»