Album: Ramblin' Jack Elliott, A Stranger Here (Anti)

Elliott, too, was a renegade Jewish kid (real name Elliott Charles Adnopoz) drawn to the byways of American mythology, first as a runaway with a rodeo, later as a cowboy-hatted troubadour. So this album of Depression-era country-blues songs by the likes of Mississippi John Hurt, Son House and Blind Willie Johnson involves no great changes for the 77-year-old singer, shepherded by producer Joe Henry with a session crew that includes Van Dyke Parks, Los Lobos's David Hidalgo and drummer Jay Bellerose. Elliott's voice has the apt craggy but elegant world-weariness for material like the Reverend Gary Davis's "Death Don't Have No Mercy" and Son House's advice not to take unnecessary umbrage, "Grinnin' in your Face", while Henry's arrangements range from the jaunty dobro of Hurt's "Richland Women Blues" to the piano and trilling mandolin of "Rising High Water Blues". Subtle touches animate songs without compromising their emotional immediacy.

Download this: 'Death Don't Have No Mercy', 'Grinnin' in your Face', 'Richland Women Blues'

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