This 24-song CD is spellbinding for the different styles and approaches that Elliott takes to the three distinct bodies of work (drawn from two separate LPs) contained within.
His covers of a half-dozen Woody Guthrie songs emphasize his vocals and their expressiveness, with the accompaniment subordinate to the singing.
The Jimmie Rodgers stuff, by contrast, shows off some very attractive playing by all concerned, with wonderfully smooth guitar and fiddle work, and a very fine produced sound. The two sets of six songs sound very dissimilar to each other -- Elliott has more of a drawl on the Guthrie material and a fine yodel on the Rodgers songs. And then the Western songs show off another, more rudimentary sound -- Elliott's voice has more of a twang here, and the playing is, once again, usually somewhat subordinate to the singing. Elliott and his producers were careful to juxtapose contrasting songs, so that the bracing Western swing-style number "Sadie Brown," with its jaunty fiddle, is followed by the haunting, unaccompanied "Night Herding Song," highlighted by Elliott's glorious near-falsetto yodel.
Also in contrast to the Rodgers and Guthrie songs, the cowboy songs show almost no use of stereo separation. These versions have a beguiling air of authenticity despite their being recorded long after the point they were written -- on "Jack O' Diamonds," in particular, Elliott compares favorably with Tex Ritter (who turned the song into a hit as "Rye Whiskey"), complete with the alcoholic whooping and hollering that helped make Ritter's version so beguiling and endearing. Elliott covers at least three styles here, with little overlap; it's more than one hour of excellent material that's the equal of any of his various best-of compilations from different labels.
Ramblin' Jack Elliott - Ramblin' Jack Elliott Sings Woody Guthrie And Jimmie Rodgers & Cowboy Songs
(160 kbps, front cover & booklet included)