Ramblin' Jack Elliott - Jack Takes the Floor (1958), 5/10

The quality of Jack Elliott’s vocals is a bit hit or miss, but his passion is refreshingly consistent. The opener in comparison to its proceeding track “Ol’ Riley”, for example, is tamer and while his vocals are shotty on the latter, they are clearly charged with emotion and a genuine sentiment. Of course, it becomes obvious very quickly that the record itself is held back by the fifties country sound that is appropriately also hit or miss depending on the subject matter and performer. Luckily Jack is a formidable force and knows how to use dynamics and his individual talent where needed. There is enough variety here to keep things fresh, like the aptly named, crawling tune “Bed Bug Blues” after the driving, almost folk tune in “Boll Weevil”, and after these two juxtaposed styles, an even more narrative, character driven track in “New York Town”. As with a lot of classic country music, it can sound a lot alike at first glance, but there is actually an array of sensibilities. His spoken word intros to a lot of the tracks add an intimacy and personality to what otherwise may become an impersonal set of country and blues songs considering their similar melodies. All of the strengths aside, there are simply grating and useless songs in the mix: “Grey Goose” and the completely out of place “Dink Song” and “Black Baby”. Bonus tracks on the digital version are worth exploring and round out what is otherwise a somewhat barebones record, such as the straightforward but endearing “Old Blues”, the lovable group chorus style of “There are Better Things to Do”, or the humorous and fun “Brother Won’t You Join in the Line”.