While Ramblin’ Jack Elliott is sadly pretty obscure among the general public, his influence among fellow musicians is massive. Everyone from Bob Dylan to Mick Jagger to Paul Mc-Freaking-Cartney has cited this guy as a major influence on their music (listen to “Rocky Raccoon” off The White Album and the influence of his “talking-blues” style is blatant). It’s not hard to see why. His guitar playing is excellent, his songs are catchy, and his stories are entertaining. Ramblin’ Jack Elliott truly is a folk musician only paralleled by Woody Guthrie himself.
Image source: CMT.com
Jack Takes the Floor is, to say it simply, one of the finest folk albums of all time. It feels like a relaxing afternoon on the back porch with grandpa and his guitar. Jack Elliott’s guitar playing is almost flawless, and his lyrics are engaging and sometimes even funny. Each of its 11 tracks (later 13, when it was reissued as Muleskinner with a couple bonus tracks) are memorable, but “Mule Skinner Blues,” “New York Town,” “Cocaine” and “Dink’s Song” are stand-outs. “New York Town” even has Woody Guthrie himself as a guest performer! “Cocaine’s” guitar is strangely sweet considering the song’s subject matter. “Dink’s Song” is just plain heartbreaking, sung from the point of view of a prisoner singing about his love outside of prison. “Mule Skinner Blues” is the longest song of the album, at over 5 minutes in length, and boasts some great guitar work and singing. Overall, the whole album is great, with wonderful playing and lyricism throughout.
Jack Takes the Floor is one solid folk album. If you’ve got even a passing interest in the genre, or are looking for a good place to start, this is your record. With a set of songs like this, its no wonder an entire generation of musicians to follow were impacted by it. Give it a listen, will ya?
Favorite Tracks: “Mule Skinner Blues,” “Cocaine,” “Dink’s Song,” “New York Town”
Next Up: Sarah Vaughan At Mister Kelly’s by Sarah Vaughan (1958)