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The Lost Topic Tapes: Cowes Harbour 1957

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Album Review

Born in Brooklyn, Jack Elliott reinvented himself as a cowboy folksinger in the Woody Guthrie mold (but without Guthrie's particular talent for recasting folk melodies into new compositions), and was adept at catching the nuances of rural American singing styles. He did indeed like to ramble, and he landed in London in 1955 just as the skiffle boom was taking off, signing to Topic Records. The songs on this disc were all recorded for Topic at a session on a yacht at Cowes Harbour on the Isle of Wight in 1957. Some of the tunes were issued on a 10" LP called Jack Takes the Floor and the rest were stowed away in the British Library in London, which was where a Topic staffer discovered them nearly 50 years later. The sequence here is a fairly typical Elliott set of the time, made up of Guthrie tunes (including a fine version of "Tom Joad"), traditional American folk songs ("Streets of Laredo," "Tom Dooley"), and other pieces that fit his style, like his wonderful cover of Libba Cotten's "Freight Train." Things get a little affected when Elliott talks between songs, but when he sings, it all works, and his guitar playing is always simple, appropriate, and top-notch.


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...
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The Lost Topic Tapes: Cowes Harbour 1957, Ramblin' Jack Elliott
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