SAN FRANCISCO — Followers of people and Americana obtained a uncommon alternative Sunday to witness one of many early progenitors of the type. Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, a up to date of Woody Guthrie and early acquaintance of Bob Dylan, got here to city to provide an understated and personable matinee live performance at The Chapel.
After being launched by his street supervisor, Elliott pranced onto the stage with a locomotive gallop. Taking a seat on a excessive stool, he then accepted help in strapping on his guitar. The stage was set with lamps and potted vegetation, and the largely seated viewers shortly established a colloquial proximity to the artist. Because the 88-year-old Jack Elliott sipped from a white mug, an attendee implored “what’s in that cup, Jack?”
“Oh, it’s whiskey,” Elliott responded wryly. “I hoped it was one thing else, but it surely’s whiskey.”
Early on, Elliott struggled barely to wrap his fingers across the neck of his guitar. Accentuating some open chords, he hit a pair audible clunkers. “New guitar,” he joked as he continued the track.
On this relaxed method, Elliott’s character carried the efficiency. A droll fellow, he launched many songs with tales from his ramblin’ days and established a conversational familiarity with the viewers. In a tragic ballad from the early 20th century, Elliott summoned “a fairly chook to fly” and addressed a personality named “Willie.”
After the track, he elucidated: “That’s not Willie Nelson. The track pre-dates Willie Nelson. Did anyone see him, by the way in which?” Elliot requested, referencing Nelson’s current performances on the Fillmore.
Elliot’s humorousness crept into a few of the songs as properly. He described “mattress bugs as huge as a jackass” in “Mattress Bug Blues,” a tune popularized by Dave Van Ronk in 1961.
As a guitarist, Elliott displayed a well-worn ease with the folks picking-and-strumming type. He picked the strings rigorously all through typical chord formations, connecting the adjustments with cheery bass runs and neat off-kilter fills. Like his verbal interdictions, some musical passages and chord progressions got here refreshingly off-the-cuff. He rounded out one minor key track with a long term of non-repeating chords, ending on a shock main.
Elliott’s rusty voice cracked and howled when he pushed it to full pressure, giving a uncooked, windswept edge to his sound. At quieter moments, he commanded the vocal melodies with ease and readability of tone. A few times, his voice soared with the acidic reediness of a bygone period in American track. Elliott appeared proper at residence on a talking-blues quantity about transport out with the service provider marines. The casual directness of the lyrical type match his demeanor, and he allowed himself to give you variations on the fly. Equally, he turned small flaws in his guitar rhythms into idiosyncrasies of track.
Elliott arrange folks normal “Home Of The Rising Solar” with a Bob Dylan story from the Newport People Pageant. In Elliott’s telling, Eric Burdon and the Animals’ model of the track got here on the radio in Dylan’s automotive, and each Dylan and Elliott pointed to the radio, concurrently exclaiming, “That’s my model!” Elliott performed the track in a sultry, rumbling low key. He additionally made the unconventional option to sing the lyrics from the angle of one of many home women, which proved in style with the gang.
Elliott thrived on minor-key ballads, particularly “Buffalo Skinners,” a gripping story of prairie justice within the “summer season of ‘83.”
“That’s 1883, not 1983,” he stated.
Elliott spoke of being impressed to study the track after a dialog with Guthrie. He then closed with “All Sorts Of Hassle,” throughout which he stopped abruptly to interact the viewers in a little bit of maundering chit-chat. After persevering with the track for a couple of extra verses, he stopped abruptly once more, proclaiming with a smile he was “sick of whacking on this” guitar. He obtained to his ft with aptitude and energetically shuffled off the stage.
Marin County’s Wet Eyes, led by singer-songwriter Irena Eide, opened the present. Eide’s simple folks songs took listeners down lonesome highways, rolling with “the wheel of time” into forlorn hill nation. Accompanied by an electrical guitarist and mandolinist, Eide switched between guitar and banjo, singing in her exceptionally clear and balanced voice. Wet Eyes performed songs from debut album Moon In The Mirror, sustaining an earthy humility acceptable to the small venue.