Take a Drink: for every time Ramblin’ Jack goes off on a tangent
Take a Drink: for each folk music icon who appears on screen
Drink a Shot: for every scene with Jack playing on stage
By: Oberst Von Berauscht (A Toast) –
The nomadic life of a folksinger does not make for an easy family life, and the hard reality for Ramblin’ Jack Elliot’s daughter Aiyana was accepting that her father would never be present in the conventional sense. The Ballad of Ramblin’ Jack was Aiyana’s attempt to reconcile this, while also telling the story of her legendary father, warts and all. For those unfamiliar, here’s a solid example:
Aiyana cuts between filmed moments on a contemporary concert tour in which she accompanies her father, with tales of his past in the late 1950s-early 1960s folk renaissance up to the present time. This allows the audience to appraise Elliott’s music and achievements, as well as see his sometimes turbulent personal life in contrast.
Ramblin’ Jack Elliott played a pivotal role in music, learning his trade from an aging Woody Guthrie, and mentoring the young Bob Dylan. Unlike Dylan, whose singular drive to write and perform made him a household name, Jack Elliott was more of an enigma, jumping between various experiences without a clear focus, from rodeo work, to sailing, to struggling along the road of a traveling musician.
Director Aiyana makes it clear that her father’s life on the road would always take front-seat, with family being a side note, and portrays her own struggles to understand. The film combines these two elements, deftly allowing the audience to acclimate to Elliott’s unique character quite quickly. Ramblin’ Jack might not have been the most well known of the folksingers to come out of the 60s boom, but his personality is endearing, and it becomes easy to see how he was able to befriend and influence so many musicians over the years. The irony comes with his seeming inability to handle personal relationships, which is a trait that sadly affects so many other major artists. Aiyana’s film is ultimately one of love, however. She indicates early on her great love and respect for what her father is, and simply wants to be able to become a larger part of his life.
A deeply affecting portrait of a folk music legend, and his impenetrable personality both at home and on the road.