What's Up, Chuck?
Ramble On--Ramblin' Jack Elliott returns; Kristina Olsen visits; Thunderbirds on deck.
Thursday, September 10, 1998
What''s more to be said about Ramblin'' Jack Elliott? That he''s one of the true living legends of folk music is already well known. Early influence on Bob Dylan, ditto. His nasally growl is virtually inimitable, you knew that.
The Ramblin'' man is a regular visitor to the Monterey Peninsula (in fact, his next-to-last album, the Grammy-winning South Coast, took its title from Big Sur poet/historian Lillian Bos Ross'' "A Wild Coast and Lonely") so you''ve probably read plenty of stuff about him. Right?
So let''s keep it short.
Ramblin'' Jack is touring in support of his most recent album Friends of Mine (1998), which in some ways is a tribute album of sorts. Ten of the top names in the folk/rock world sing duets with Elliott, providing eloquent testimony to Elliott''s status in those circles. Musicians joining Elliott on the album include Arlo Guthrie, Peter Rowan, Rosalie Sorrels, Tom Waits, Emmylou Harris, Nanci Griffith, John Prine, Jerry Jeff Walker, Guy Clark and Bob Weir.
There are original Ramblin'' Jack songs on the album, and there are cover tunes that come out sounding as if they are originals-the two most notable of those being Joe Ely''s "Me and Billy the Kid," with Rowan, and "Friend of the Devil," with Weir.
Suffice it to say, this Roy Rogers-produced album is both unique and compelling. If you''re into real roots Americana with a big slice of musical history, you''ll want to get your hands on Friends.
Inthe meantime, you can catch Ramblin'' Jack solo on Saturday. He always delivers a loquacious, charismatic performance in that low-key sort of way that he has. No matter where you see him, you get the feeling that this really cool friend just stopped by your house for maybe a barbecue and an afternoon of music.
Ramblin'' Jack Elliott, Saturday, 7 & 9:30pm. $15/advance; $20/door. The Media Room, 373-7379.
Less well known is Kristina Olsen (another Portofino Presents production at the Media Room) who''s appearing on Friday.
Olsen is one of those performers who is both exciting and frustrating. Exciting because Olsen''s music is real hard to identify (some of it, anyway) and frustrating for the exact same reason. Trying to describe a lot of Olsen''s music is like, as a more famous writer than moi said, dancing about architecture. Nonetheless, when the piper plays, I get paid the really big bucks to dance. So, here we go.
On Olsen''s 1998 album, Duet, with cellist Peter Grayling, multi-instrumentalist Olsen (acoustic and steel-body guitar, saxophone, concertina, piano and vocals) displays a wide range of styles. In her cover of Furry Lewis'' classic blues number, "Bluesville," Olsen offers vocals and slide-guitar licks that sounds like she''s a Delta queen who graduated magna cum laude from some vocal-training academy-big, deep and rich as a swamp at sunrise, smooth as a deep, rolling river. Then she follows it with "My Father''s Piano," one of those introspective, personal types of songs that are the stock-in-trade of so many contemporary singer/songwriters-very heartfelt and pretty.
Later in the album, Olsen exhibits a sense of humor in a live cut of "Wish You''d Stop Doing So Well," a song dedicated to an ex-boyfriend. The song offers a glimpse into what is obviously a charismatic performance style, and the humor rivals that of someone like Christine Lavin. Then she backs up the humor with a mean, raw acoustic blues performance, and Grayling offers his own cello voodoo in support of Olsen.
But that''s only the describable stuff. In the opening numbers, Olsen delivers "The Night He Left" and "Already Gone." And that''s where the describing is tough. It''s sort of like (watch me dance) a French cabaret chanteuse singing with classical backup in a jazz club for a pop-blues audience. Or something.
There''s not much point is saying much about Australian cellist Grayling. He''s on vacation somewhere in the United States.
There will be an unnamed cellist accompanying Olsen at her Pacific Grove gig, who is said to be every bit as good as Grayling...Check ''em out.
Kristina Olsen, Friday, 8pm. The Media Room, $15/advance; $20/door. 373-7379.
And here''s some advance warning for next Thursday (9/17). Jimmy Vaughan''s old band, The Fabulous Thunderbirds, is coming to McGarrett''s-you might want to get tix now.
Although harmonicat Kim Wilson is the only remaining member of the original band, it''s a group that can do a mean job of rockin'' the blues.
The Fabulous Thunderbirds, Thursday (9/17). $15/advance; $20/door. McGarrett''s, 372-3161.