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South Coast

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Album Review

Ramblin' Jack Elliott, this 1995 album (his first after more than a two-decade hiatus from the studio) goes to show, only gets better with age. The 70-something-year-old voice resonates here with the long miles and experience it once just impersonated, the distinctive guitar playing likewise aged into a rich and mesmerizing style. Elliott also reveals himself as one of the few truly enduring figures of the folk era, partly because his music is more honest, and as a result more timeless, than so much of that era's music. This anticipated, Grammy-winning return to the studio represents Elliott at the top of his game, rendering several of his standards (his repertoire is admittedly lean, and the same songs crop up on album after album) at some of their best. There is the usual run of Woody Guthrie songs here (four out of the 12 total tracks) alongside a mix of folk revival tunes, ballads, and blues. The old faithful "San Francisco Bay Blues" is appropriately older, slower, and world-wearier here than in Elliott's earlier, hell-for-leather performances, but it holds up well, proving itself worth at least one more listen. Elliott's real strength, though, comes through on songs like "South Coast" and "Buffalo Skinners," both of them haunting and desperate Western epics. Jack Elliott used to sound more like Woody Guthrie than Woody Guthrie, which itself was no small feat, but where lesser imitators would have ceased, Elliott kept on rambling, and finally sounds like nothing but Jack Elliott, a sound itself worthy of imitation and with its own place in the canon of American roots legends. With South Coast, Elliott's legend is irrevocably cemented.

Customer Reviews

A Genuine National Treasure

I first heard Ramblin Jack Elliot somewhere around 1959 or 1960 at the Ash Grove in Hollywood. I had never heard of him before that and had actually gone to the Ash Grove to see Long Gone Miles, a blues singer, who, it turned out, was the opening act. However, once Jack came on, I was completely enthralled by his storytelling, guitar picking, songs, and singing. I had never heard anything like him before, and, since then, I've caught dozens of his shows in a variety of places and have bought everything he ever recorded. "South Coast," more than any other album of his, captures the Jack Elliot that blew me away more than 45 years ago and who has held my interest all these years. This guy is a genuine national treasure.

They're Jealous of His Freedom

I guess Bush wasn't talking about Ramblin' Jack Elliott with those words, but the Ramblin' One is one of the few truly free Americans. He is untameable by money or any of the other trappings to which most of us are subject. This has kept him from having a wider audience but has also kept him from becoming a travesty of who/what he is. The other thing about Jack that has been a curse and a blessing is that he doesn't expand his repertoire very much. Almost all of these songs have been recorded and live-performed over and over. In a What-Have-You-Sung-For-Me-Lately world this can be a problem, but it also means that he knows these familiar songs inside and out and that results in something really special and particularly Jack Elliott. The new song, "Will James" is really great!

Biography

Born: August 1, 1931 in Brooklyn, NY

Genre: Singer/Songwriter

Years Active: '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

Ramblin' Jack Elliott is one of folk music's most enduring characters. Since he first came on the scene in the late '50s, Elliott influenced everyone from Bob Dylan and Pete Seeger to the Rolling Stones and the Grateful Dead. The son of a New York doctor and a onetime traveling companion of Woody Guthrie, Elliott used his self-made cowboy image to bring his love of folk music to one generation after another. Despite the countless miles that Elliott traveled, his nickname is derived from his unique...
Full Bio