Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Hank, Woody and Ramblin' Jack

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Regular readers already know my passion for certain kinds of music, particularly traditional folk music.

I've already written about Hank Williams Sr. and Woody Guthrie, and tonight I want to wrote about another favorite, Ramblin' Jack Elliott.

A short aside here, one thing that I love about Santa Cruz is the wonderful library system. The people of Santa Cruz have a deep appreciation for music and the selection at the local library is outstanding.

Anyhow, I was at the library looking for music and DVDs and I came across a DVD called the Ballad of Ramblin' Jack. Wow, what a trip.

I checked it out and was thoroughly entertained. Have you ever heard Ramblin' Jack Elliott? As a young man from New York, he left home at 15 to pursue his dreams. This led him to the west, where he took to cowboy music and thus the legend started. He traveled all over this country, eventually hooking up with Woody Guthrie.

And the rest is history.

Here's what I found really interesting. I knew that both Woody and Jack traveled extensively, but what I learned from this film is that much of he time, Jack was traveling in an RV!

The film uses lots of old home movies and you can see him in various vehicles over the years, starting with a VW van, but it's pretty apparent that he was an early adopter of the RV lifestyle. It appears that, at least up until the time of the films release (2000) he was still traveling in an RV.

But that was just part of what I most enjoyed about this film. For me, the thrill was the chance to see Jack Elliott perform. Just one man on a stage with a guitar, he stands there, telling stories and singing his songs. Kris Kristofferson says he's called Ramblin' Jack not for his travels, but for his storytelling style, which pretty much sums it up.

His tales are wonderful, his music clean and simple, yet moving and somehow very real.

As a longtime fan of his music, this was a truly welcome insight into the man and his music.

One small note, the film was made by his daughter, who obviously has issues with his rambling ways, and this is a bit distracting. Still, I felt that the very fact that he agreed to do the film speaks volumes.

There is one part where Arlo Guthrie tells her "Maybe you just don't get to get the answers you want". That pretty much echoes my feeling about grown children and their parents.

Another quote from Dave Van Ronk says (and I'm paraphrasing here) "Jack could have settled down and been a fine, working, family man,and the world would have had one more good working family man. But then we'd never have had Ramblin Jack Elliott and that would be a real loss."

I think he put it perfectly.

A recommended film, and of course, if you've never heard him sing, you should give some of his music a listen.

1 comment:

Malone said...

I loved this story, Kate. I especially loved the comment about grown children and their parents. I am not quite sure that my adult kids get the answers they want all the time from me. Ha!