troubadour Ramblin’ Jack Elliott takes an unexpected turn via his sophomore
offering for Anti-, turning in a set of swampy blues standards that date from
the Great Depression. Under the guidance
of producer Joe Henry – a man who’s made it his mission to revive the careers
of extraordinary icons like Solomon Burke and Bettye LaVette – these roughshod
renditions sound as if they were plucked intact from Alan Lomax’s original
field recordings or some Smithsonian archive.
The ramshackle arrangements belie the stellar cast of participants – Van
Dyke Parks and Los Lobos’ David Hidalgo chief among them – but it’s the 77-year
old singer’s gritty howl that affirms authenticity. The ominous overtones and weary perspective
offer few reprieves, but even lighter moments – the lanky “Richland Women
Blues” and the mellow, meandering “How Long Blues” – reflect the imprint of a
genuine American master.
Standout Tracks: “Rambler’s Blues,” “How Long Blues” LEE