Ramblin' Jack Elliott A Stranger Here

Ramblin' Jack Elliott A Stranger Here
As an artist as steeped in American folklore as Elliott is - his storied life still overshadows his musical output - it's entirely appropriate for him to partner with producer Joe Henry, currently at the top of his game, in terms of rejuvenating underappreciated figures. The results on A Stranger Here are therefore not surprisingly astounding, with the combination of Elliott's half-century of experience and a dream band, including Van Dyke Parks, David Hidalgo, Greg Leisz, David Piltch and Jay Bellerose, adding up to a career-defining work. Although the album's ten songs are all classic 1920s and '30s blues, the theme that unfolds at the outset with Blind Lemon Jefferson's "Rising High Water Blues" and Rev. Gary Davis's "Death Don't Have No Mercy" deftly reflects the cloud of reckoning that has hung over America in recent years. In that sense, it would be easy to subtitle A Stranger Here, "Songs for the New Depression." But while Elliott's renditions of Blind Willie Johnson's "Soul Of A Man," and Son House's "Grinnin' In Your Face" are certainly chilling, the overall warmth and intimacy of the performances, particularly Parks's ragtime piano flourishes, makes A Stranger Here endlessly compelling, as well as an early contender for comeback of the year. (Anti)