Ramblin' Jack Elliott - A Stranger Here

The country-blues songbook as written by Son House, Blind Willie Johnson, Mississippi John Hurt, and Charley Patton seems like natural, if previously unexplored, territory for this folk legend. Add producer Joe Henry and a crack band including pianist Van Dyke Parks, Los Lobos' David Hidalgo, and Boston drummer Jay Bellerose and the results are soulful, moody, and entrancing.

Little details like Hidalgo's acoustic slide guitar on "How Long Blues" and the electric rumble he tags on "Falling Down Blues" underline the humanity etched into Elliott's well-traveled, tattered, 77-year-old voice. But Henry's too smart to be predictable, so it's piano — not the genre's emblematic six-strings — that shares the most space with Elliott's dusty-road emoting. And there's even a little vibraphone to help recast Elliott's own "Please Remember Me" as lounge fare. This is not so much a reinvention as another way to look deep into the heart of Elliott's music. It's also an early nominee for folk album of the year.

RAMBLIN' JACK ELLIOTT | Regattabar, Charles Hotel, 1 Bennett St, Cambridge | May 7 | 617.395.7757 or www.regattabarjazz.com.

Ted Drozdowski