Ramblin' Jack Elliott and JD Souther bring their legacies to Park City

Published August 14, 2013 2:53 pm
Music • Ramblin' Jack Elliott and JD Souther bring tradition to Park City.
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Park City's Egyptian Theatre on Main Street plays host to two titans of music this week.

Folk legend Ramblin' Jack Elliott headlines the historic venue on Thursday, Aug. 22, and country songwriter JD Souther plays a two-night stand on Friday and Saturday, Aug. 23 and 24.

Ramblin' Jack Elliott • A touring partner of the late Woody Guthrie, Elliott became known during the folk revival of the early 1960s; a young Bob Dylan regularly opened for him. Some even thought the Brooklyn-born Elliott was Dylan's father, because he always introduced Dylan as his "son."

Over the years, Elliott — called "Ramblin' " because of his talkative nature and his never-ending tour schedule — became friends with many performers. One good friend was Bruce "Utah" Phillips, the rabble-rousing cowboy poet and folk singer who died in 2008.

"We're two different leaves on the same plant," Elliott said of Phillips. They often toured together, and Phillips good-naturedly forbade Elliott from coming into his dressing room before shows, because Elliott would start a long conversations when Phillips wanted to rehearse. "I talked too much," Elliott admitted.

Elliott said his songs of hard traveling are still relevant especially in light of the world's economic troubles. "They don't want to call it a Depression," he said. "They call it a Recession, which is a softer term."

While "fond of Jesus," Elliott doesn't consider himself the church-going type. "My religion is hitchhiking and yoga and bull-riding and roping horses," he said. He prays most often when he is about to lift off in a plane. "I bless every moving part of the plane," he said. "It takes care of boredom when you're taxiing."

Young British folk-rocker Bobby Long, who performs at Kilby Court the same night as Elliott headlines in Park City, summed up the importance of the 81-year-old Elliott. "He's the middle ground between Woody Guthrie and Bob Dylan."

JD Souther • The 67-year-old singer-songwriter has always been a peerless wordsmith who worked behind the scenes. That makes his recurring role on the ABC show "Nashville" ironic. His gifts as a songwriter are unmatched in the country-rock world, and in June, he was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in New York City.

He has written or co-written numerous hit songs performed by (former girlfriend) Linda Ronstadt and the Eagles, including "Best of My Love," "Heartache Tonight" and "New Kid in Town." The partnership was engendered before the Eagles' formation when Glenn Frey and Souther were members of the short-lived folk-country group Longbranch Pennywhistle. Later, he was a collaborator with Don Henley, most notably co-writing the 1989 hit "The Heart of the Matter."

Souther said he rehearsed a few times with Frey and Henley as the Eagles were taking shape. "Their band was perfect the way it was, with that original four-piece [with Bernie Leadon and Randy Meisner]," he said.

Souther, who has been coming to Park City to ski for two decades, has been on a prolific writing streak. In 2008, he released "If the World Was You," his first new release in 25 years. The next year came a live CD featuring a blend of old and new material.

"Natural History," released in 2011 and featuring new versions of many of his songs, continued Souther's exploration of jazz-influenced music.

Jazz was his first and enduring love, he said.

"I was a jazz drummer when I moved to Los Angeles," he said of his move from Texas in the late 1960s. Then he realized something important. "All the girls like you when you're up in front."

He is in the midst of recording a new album with jazz musicians due in 2014. "It's a little quieter band," Souther said. "We really swing."


Folk and country at the Egyptian

Ramblin' Jack Elliott

When • Thursday, Aug. 22, at 8 p.m.

Where • Egyptian Theatre, 328 Main St., Park City

Tickets • $23-$38 at egyptiantheatrecompany.org

JD Souther

When • Friday and Saturday, Aug. 23-24, at 8 p.m.

Where • Egyptian Theatre, 328 Main St., Park City

Tickets • $29-$50 at egyptiantheatrecompany.org



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