Jack Takes the FloorRamblin' Jack Elliott
It is almost impossible to talk about Ramblin' Jack Elliott without mentioning Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan or Pete Seeger. It's true that they were contemporaries of Elliott's, but this album shows that they maybe weren't equals in the creative sense. Guthrie and Seeger are often cited by a wide range of musicians as stylistic influences, while Dylan transcended his genre to become one of the greatest songwriters of the twentieth century. Elliott is different in the sense that he doesn't seem burdened by ambition, nor particularly interested in crafting original compositions, making him quite a throwback, albeit a pleasant one. His introductory musings prefacing certain songs are inoffensive and accessible. However, the songs themselves, although delivered in a slightly tongue-in-cheek manner, just don't have the depth to appeal. Without the drive to create original compositions, the interpretational troubadour has to lend some of himself to the song, which is exactly where this record falls short. Johnny Cash and Elmore James were masters of it, their souls sang other people's lyrics. Elliott merely uses his mouth, admittedly with the authentic scrap of tweed in the corner of it. His adherence to the singing cowboy gimmick is admirable, but he's going through the motions. This is nowhere near a Rory Gallagher roaring out Pistol Slapper Blues, more of a competent and highly likeable folk fan performing Sunday evening open mic. It's nice background music for folk enthusiasts, but falls flat as a record due to shallow material and poor continuity. Not bad, but far from a meaningful endeavour.