“It’s probably too early for a talkin’ blues,” Ramblin’ Jack Elliott conceded. “You’ve probably already heard enough talkin’ to last a week and a half.”
He’d only played two songs so far – Jesse “The Lone Cat” Fuller’s “San Francisco Bay Blues” and the cowboy favorite “Diamond Joe” – but he might have been right. On the other hand, talkin’ is what Elliott is really all about. The songs are just an excuse for him to build a story around.
And as it turned out, it wasn’t too early for a talkin’ blues anyway, and he launched directly – or as directly as Ramblin’ Jack ever seems to get – into Woody Guthrie’s “Talkin’ Sailor.”
A supreme storyteller, the 80-year-old Elliott then played Lead Belly’s “How Long Blues,” the lone selection of the night from his latest CD, the 2009 Grammy Award-winning “A Stranger Here.” But even that came with a caveat.
“I’m not a blues man,” he explained to the capacity crowd at Caffe Lena on the final night of his east coast spring tour. “I’m kind of a cowboy and a trucker. I’m not even a music lover. I’m a dog lover and a cat lover. But when the cats get hungry, I’ve got to go out and play some music.”