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A Stranger Here

4.4 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Audio CD, April 7, 2009
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Editorial Reviews

Ramblin' Jack Elliott is one of folk music's most
enduring legends. An influence on everyone from Bob Dylan and Pete Seeger to the Rolling Stones and the Grateful Dead, Elliott used his charismatic cowboy image to bring his love of folk music to one generation after another. On A Stranger Here, Elliott takes on depression era blues songs that have a particular resonance in these turbulent times. With his world scarred voice wrapped around these dark songs of
dark days, Elliott has made his masterpiece, an album at once elegiac and defiant, that can stand beside great late career recordings by master singers like Billie Holiday and Frank Sinatra. With the fantastically sympathetic producer Joe Henry at the board, Ramblin
Jack delivers the album his legend has always
deserved, and finally proves not just that he is a great folk singer, but a great American singer.
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (April 7, 2009)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Anti
  • ASIN: B001SLNPQ6
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #187,395 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Ramblin' Jack Elliott has been a major force in American Music for over 50 years. He kept alive earlier traditions of country and country blues singers, and he kept Woody Guthrie's spirit alive to pass on to Bob Dylan, Tom Paxton, Phil Ochs, and an entire generation of folksinger/songwriters. He taught several generations of guitar players their chops. He innovated solo acoustic versions of everything from Woody and Leadbelly and Jimmie Rodgers to Ray Charles to Tim Hardin to Mick Jagger.

And now here he comes with another milestone: a concept album of old country blues accompanied by a loose-knit, but highly accomplished band. Like everything Jack does, this has his unique imprint--the soaring, croaking, crooning vocals moving in and out of the melody with just the right mixture of reverence and immediacy. It is a joyful revelation!
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He's hot. He's cool. He's got the blues and he's 77 years old. Ramblin' Jack Elliot teams up with producer Joe Henry for this concept album of country blues songs from the Great Depression.

First, the concept--it's not only appropriate for Elliot's weathered voice and experience, but also strangely apropos for our current situation. While we're not in a depression right now, these songs catch those feelings of hardship and empathy incredibly well.

Second--the songs themselves. Nearly all of the tracks are midtempo blues tunes, acoustically arranged, with either piano or guitar anchoring them. Henry arranges these songs with a stark but textured simplicity that shows off the tunes, and provides the perfect bed for Elliot's vocals.

Standout tracks here are "Death Don't Have No Mercy," which sounds like a lost Tom Waits tune, and "Soul of A Man," which has Ramblin' Jack proclaiming the words with a cracked, weathered, passionate voice.

This album can serve as any of three things--an intro to the country blues of the 1930s, an enjoyable exploration of Ramblin' Jack's incredible interpretive skills, or just as incredibly fine, textured, rough-hewn, honest music.

This is rootsy American music at its finest. What is the soul of a man? Ramblin' Jack Elliot's is on display right here. Awesome.
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I had never listened to any album by Ramblin' Jack Elliot before listening to this one. I believe this album is more blues oriented than his usual country folk genre.

I was pleasantly surprised after listening to this album. This is a very good album with excellent interpretations of early blues songs by Mississippi John Hurt, Son House, Blind Willie Johnson, Reverend Gary Davis.

Seventy seven year old Ramblin' Jack Elliot's voice, sometimes trembles and sometimes quakes, but his life experiences ooze out of his throat. The depth and character of his voice makes these blues songs believable.

Beyond Ramblin Jack's vocals, the album seems to favor Van Dyke Park's blues piano with the occasional acoustic slide guitar. There is a wide range of instruments used on the album, but they all seem to mix well with the songs. Excellent job producing this album.

Produced by John Henry with help from an excellent backup band. A simple and uncluttered production.

Five star tunes well worth the price of admission;

Death Don't Have No Mercy - written by Reverend Gary Davis. Jack Elliot's wavering and inspiring vocals are a perfect blend with blues piano and mandolin. This is a first rate blues rendition of a classical blues song.

Soul of a Man - Written by Blind Willie Johnson in 1930. Acoustic slide is fantastic in this beautiful rendition. Much better version of the song than done by Eric Burdon, Jeff Beck, Susan Tedeschi, or Maria Muldaur.

How Long Blues - commercialized by Eric Clapton Unplugged. Harmonica and acoustic slide guitar laced with Ramblin' Jack's enthusiastic crooning. Super rendition.

Ramblin' Jack Elliot will be 'a stranger no longer' from my musical tastes.
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This is a very good one. Spare, soulful, bluesy sounding session. His vocals are emotionally poignant and the musicians are there for Jack and the songs. This recording and his "South Coast" recording are my two favorites among his later work. The sound quality is superb. Highly recommended.
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