Ramblin' Jack Elliott

Country Style [1962]

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Ramblin' Jack Elliott somehow gets lost in the shuffle when glancing back at the American folk revival. Sandwiched somewhere between a copy of Woody Guthrie and an influence on Bob Dylan, one loses the man himself. After returning from England in 1961, Elliott started recording for Prestige, one of several folk music labels. On Country Style, one can see the rambling doctor's son come into his own as a performer. On his previous recordings in England, he relied heavily on Guthrie's songs and style to build his performance persona. On Country Style, Elliott steps away from the past to carve out an irreverent, slap-happy style that showed that folk music, when handled without studious care, could be a helluva lot of fun. Whether he's yodeling his way through "Lovesick Blues" or hamming it up in "Arthritis Blues," he gives the impression that he arrived at the studio under the influence. This gives each performance a loose, happy-go-lucky feel that one might expect from a live recording. The country material, "Mean Mama Blues" and "The Wreck of the Old 97," also helps to move away from tradition. At the same time, though, Elliott's simple arrangements -- guitar, voice, and harmonica -- couldn't be more traditional. Country Style represents the first flowering of Elliott's talent and turning point for folk traditionalism.

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