Live Review: Ramblin’ Jack Elliott at the Cedar Cultural Center
To anyone familiar with the legend of Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, Saturday night’s show at the Cedar was magic. The 78 year-old took the stage alone and entertained for just under an hour – “entertained” being the most accurate word because only about half of the show consisted of singing, the rest talking. Since he ran away from home in 1946 after seeing a rodeo at Madison Square Garden, Jack Elliot has been on the road almost non-stop, but the nick-name doesn’t come from his travelling, it comes from his talking. It was supposedly Odetta’s mother who christened him, saying “Oh Jack Elliott, yeah, he can sure ramble on!” Those powers were on full display at the Cedar, as he regaled the audience with stories about driving cross-country with Bob Dylan, tearing it up with Waylon Jennings and Kris Kristofferson and hanging out with Johnny Cash, “who leaned over and said something I’ll never forget, ‘I like to wear black.’”
One of the earliest acolytes of Woody Guthrie (a full decade before Bob Dylan made his pilgrimage to the West Village), Ramblin’ Jack travelled with the Guthries for much of the ‘50’s, playing music from coast to coast. Elliott also played with many of the great early bluesmen, including Leadbelly and Mississippi John Hurt. And while most people have never heard of him, his influence touches nearly every major folk, country, rock and blues star of the past 50 years, from Johnny Cash to Bruce Springsteen to The Rolling Stones to The Red Hot Chili Peppers. Bob Dylan dubbed him “the King of Folksingers.” And lest you think his better days are behind him, he won his second Grammy, only two months ago – the award for “Best Traditional Blues Recording” for his stirring “A Stranger Here.”
The hour-long opener consisted of 9 local artists, each doing a single-song performance either by or about Jack. These ranged from excellent (Dan Israel superb rendering of “San Francisco Blues”) to boring (Kevin Odegard’s never-ending story) to mildly embarrassing (Gretchen Seichrist’s tap dancing clown).
Yet nothing can quite compare to the experience of hearing the living, breathing Jack Elliott do “House of the Rising Sun,” or “Seaman’s Blues,” his voice carrying the full story of American music.
Rolling Patches Revue
Writer / photographer / Reviler co-founder
I completely agree with your review, especially about the openers. Could have actually done without that whole part.
Great pictures! – especially for having to do them on the dl.
In what way were you embarrassed by the “tap dancing clown?” What made you feel uncomfortable about that performance? To just label an act as “mildly embarrassing” without any sort of context does little to benefit your audience. Instead it comes off more as a spiteful jab than credible journalism.
I wasn’t at this show but from the sound of it someone dressed us as a clown and tap danced? In front of an audience? I don’t think much more of an explanation is needed as to why someone might find that sort of embarrassing. That’s sort of like saying “what is it about the water that you found wet?”
Embarrassing for who? Was the clown embarrassed for tap dancing in front of a crowd riddled with preconceptions? Did it blush beneath its make-up, upon coming to that realization? Or was the writer of this review embarrassed, feeling violated by some performer with a desire to present herself in way the writer was unprepared for? Was the writer offended that this person didn’t take herself more seriously? I can see that as a possibility…but embarrassed? Why be embarrassed? Embarrassed that someone might see you witnessing it?
Or was this clown presenting itself as a master tap dancer WITH the desire to be taken seriously?
So, no…just saying something was slightly embarrassing because it included a tap dancing clown at a Ramblin’ Jack show doesn’t say much to me. Did you know that Ramblin’ Jack ran away with a carnival at one point in his life, joined a rodeo at another. Both included clowns. Maybe this performer was more twistedly-in-tune than you think. Bringing another dimension to the performance than a predictable guitar and stool could ever provide. Maybe we’d all had enough of stools, sheet music and guitars by that point.
Well, now I’m embarrassed for Buzz, but also thoroughly amused by his/her last post hahaha.
Why would one be embarrassed for Buzz?
Wow, the Minneapolis music scene, as a generalization, can be so formulaic. Play music the way it is expected or be considered a freak and a clown. Is it stuffy inside those boxes?
Is it such a stretch to consider someone who dresses up as a clown to be a clown?
Aren’t clowns, by their very nature, not to be taken seriously?
And what does Crispin Glover think about it?
I guess the definition of “reviler” (one who assails with abusive language) should have tipped everybody off to the fact that the reviewer in question isn’t a “journalist” per se, but rather just your average, every day a-hole on a mission to bring people down.
in the words of Bob Dylan–a man once close to Ramblin’ Jack’s heart–“he cares not to come up higher, but rather pull you down in the hole that he’s in.”
good luck with the karma, bub.
Oh, and he also has obviously never seen any of Ramblin’ Jack’s performance on the Rolling Thunder tour–in which he had hearts and tears painted on his cheeks. His first guitar teacher was a banjo-playing rodeo clown. If this wasn’t a tribute to the man and his history, I don’t know what is.
Thanks for the nightmares, Jon! You know how much Crispin Glover scares me!
Oh, and from now on, I will remember to take all clowns, tap dancing or otherwise, seriously. I will go back and re-evaluate all of my interactions with clowns. For instance, when Bozo the Clown mashed that cream pie into his face, I bet he was actually using that pie as a metaphor for his stance on gay rights. Shame on us all for laughing.
I know that I’ve certainly had enough of stools.
I would think clown-lovers would be nicer people. They’re so hostile!
Was I supposed to give an honest review, or uncritically accept and laud whatever the performer chose to put forward?
This controversy reminds me of that line from Woody Allen: “If a guy comes out onstage at Carnegie Hall and throws up, you can always find some people who will call it art.”
Sorry I’m not that person.