Ramblin' Jack Elliott
I Stand Alone
The Music Box's #24 album of 2006
First Appeared in The Music Box, July 2006, Volume 13, #7
Written by John Metzger
It isn’t unusual for Ramblin’ Jack Elliott to disappear for long stretches of time between albums. Considering that his career that has lasted for almost half of a century, it might be surprising to learn that he has only a handful of outings to his name. In fact, it has been seven years since he recorded The Long Ride, and more than a decade has passed since South Coast was nominated for a Grammy. Despite being surrounded by an army of high-profile guests — X’s D.J. Bonebrake, the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Flea, Wilco's Nels Cline, Lucinda Williams, Sleater-Kinney's Corin Tucker, and Los Lobos' David Hidalgo, among them — Elliott appropriately titled his latest endeavor I Stand Alone. After all, the collection revolves entirely around him as he singlehandedly puts the state of current folk-and-bluegrass scene into perspective with his humorous and heartfelt ruminations upon mortality.
Elliott may be 75, but his weathered vocals are more expressive than ever. Throughout I Stand Alone, he playfully cackles, croaks, and croons the lyrics, while paying tribute to faithful dogs, examining love, reminiscing about the old days, and laughing at death even as it stares him in the face. Squeezing 16 tracks into less than 33 minutes, he strings together seasoned interpretations of songs by A.P. Carter (Engine 143), Hoagy Carmichael (Hong Kong Blues), and Leadbelly (Jean Harlow) to form a narrative arc that feels wholly autobiographical. It’s only fitting, then, that on the concluding Woody’s Last Ride, Elliott softly speaks of his final cross-country journey with fellow folk legend Woody Guthrie, and as the song’s surreal accompaniment disintegrates, it provides a gentle reminder of the fragile, fleeting nature not only of memories but also of life.
I Stand Alone is available from Barnes & Noble.
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2006 The Music Box