RAMBLIN’ JACK ELLIOT > A Stranger Here
With a voice like the earth having grown even deeper and more resonant in recent years, Ramblin’ Jack has teamed up with producer Joe Henry to deliver a starkly dimensional and soulful collection of dark blues. Henry casts his sessions like a savvy movie director, teaming up greats like Los Lobos legend David Hidalgo (accordion, guitar), the venerable Van Dyke Parks (vibes, piano), Jay Bellerose (drums) and more, and lets them play. The result has the authentic vibe of a field recording, like something captured rather than contrived, beautiful and brave in its purity. Some of the tracks, like “Soul of a Man” and “Falling Down Blues,” combine layers of intimate acoustics deepened by portentous layers of mysterious sonics, like a man singing in a bomb-shelter with bombs bursting off in the distance. “Please Remember Me” is a weirdly wonderful amalgam of sorrow, blues-jazz, and exotica, sort of like a inebriated bordello band at a funeral. And when Elliott sings in heartsick tones of wanting somebody to tell him what is the soul of a man, the answer is not far off: these are dark old blues born in a different century-but that dark night of the soul is something we all feel and know, now maybe more than ever.