Published on June 19th, 2012 | by TLV News0
Record of the Issue: Ramblin’ Jack Elliott – *Hard Travelin’* (by Brandon Taylor, from TLV #158)
Possibly one of the most unheard heroes of Dustbowl Folk, one listen to Ramblin’ Jack Elliott and you’ll see where Bob Dylan got his roots. I had a friend tell me that a while back, but it took me until about a month ago to really figure out what my friend was getting at. I was exploring The End Of All Music for the first time, flipping through hundreds of records, a $20 bill burning a hole in my pocket. I came across a double LP of Ramblin’ Jack playing Woody Guthrie songs and other folk traditionals and thought I’d give it a listen. I put on the headphones, set the needle down into the grooves and heard Ramblin’ Jack tell me tales about makin’ a dollar a day, working at Pittsburgh Steel, hitchin’ on 66 – felt both Woody and Jack Elliott telling me they’d been doing some Hard Travelin’.
Now, from what I hear, time travel is a pretty tricky thing, but by the time I made it to the checkout counter the dust bowl had hit and I was tellin’ my friends “so long, it’s been good to know ya!” I had finished both sides of the first LP before even leaving the shop. I made it home to listen to the second LP and it was just as good as the first. Ramblin’ Jack sang folk traditionals with matter-of-fact truth in his voice that meant he’d lived them. Maybe not the same exact stories, but he’d felt the same emotions, the same joy and sorrow, and he was fighting for me – wanted me to know we were on the same side. He played guitar beautifully, finger-picking a storm of walk downs and ups in “The Cuckoo,” hammer-ons and mandolin trills sweet enough to make you want to fall in love in “Roll in My Sweet Baby’s Arms.” I suppose that’s why folk music is so relatable even with songs that are really old, because the songs are written mindful of the human condition and from the perspective of the common man.
The record finished with “Railroad Bill,” and I figure those are some good lines to end with: “Gonna drink my whiskey, drink it in the wind. The doctor said it’d kill me, but he didn’t say when. Ride, ride, ride.”
<—Brandon Taylor is a
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This article was published in The Local Voice #158 (June 14-28, 2012)…Click here to download the PDF of issue #158.