A Stranger Here

"Things get bigger when stripped down small, louder when whispered, and truths are illuminated by the tallest tales that a man can conjure."
 
That's how producer Joe Henry concludes the liner notes to the new Ramblin' Jack Elliott album, A Stranger Here, which is the best thing I've heard in quite a while. Jack is not really a great singer, but he understands how to put a song across, and the band (including Van Dyke Parks and David Hidalgo) creates some gorgeous terrain for him to wander through, kicking up the dust of a hundred highways and gathering like a cloud to tamp it back down. There are two songs from the album on this week's Mystery Train (Wednesday at 6pm and Saturday at midnight on WRUR 88.5 FM). Joe's words reminded me of something I heard on American Routes last month. Ramblin' Jack was a guest on the show and was asked about "912 Greens," a long story-song about some time spent in New Orleans many years ago. There was a storm and a woman who "had once been an ex-ballet dancer" and some naked dancing around a banana tree. Apparently, she didn't want to get her clothes wet. I don't know how tall that tale is or what truth it reveals exactly, but I'll give it the benefit of the doubt.