Ramblin’ Jack Elliott Ventures Home to Headline 10th Annual Brooklyn Country Music Festival

Ramblin’ Jack backstage at the 2013 Newport Folk Festival. Photo by Richard Kluver/grass clippings blog

Ramblin’ Jack Elliott ran away from Brooklyn to join the rodeo when he was just fourteen. A few months later, his parents dragged him back home where he started playing guitar, finished up at Midwood High School and eventually started busking. In the years just after graduation, Jack encountered Woody Guthrie – a man he lived with in Brighton Beach when he was just 19 – and formed a relationship that helped connect Woody’s legacy to the next generation of folk singers.

At 84, Jack is still touring and he’s still got it. This weekend he returns to his homeland of Brooklyn – his first show in the borough in many years – to headline the 10th Annual Brooklyn Country Music Festival. An event that first kicked off in the Backroom at the original Freddy’s – later bulldozed and relocated to make way for Barclay’s Center – then moved to Southpaw – now a kid’s center – and now lives on at The Bell House where 30 acts spread over four days begin on Thursday.

Alex Battles at BCMF '09 - Photo by Katie Kovach
Alex Battles at BCMF ’09 – Photo by Katie Kovach

Ten years ago, I lived one block from the old Freddy’s, saw a flyer for the first BCMF and it was at that event that I first met Alex Battles. Battles, who founded the Festival that day, has rallied the old time scene in the borough for a long time. Out of the gate, he says that he knew this was not going to be a one time thing. “I clearly recall my mania being in full flight as soon as I started saying the words Brooklyn Country Music Festival together,” he said. “I just said, man in a few years, everyone’s gonna play wanna play this thing. The first T-shirts even said ‘The 1st Annual’ on there. I definitely felt from the get-go that I’d want to do it again. I don’t know that I thought ten years in advance, but at least five.”

The Festival kicks off Thursday night and includes a full cast of NYC-based musicians with Brooklyn regulars like The Defibulators, The Brain Cloud as well as Miss Tess, who recently left the borough for Nashville. Sunday is mostly a bluegrass lineup and closes out with Ramblin Jack. “I can’t even begin to talk about what a legend he is, and how when he sings a song, there’s just layers and layers of truth in there,” Battles said.

We’re not quite sure what surprises Battles will have in store for the weekend, but this is a Festival, similar to other events Battles organizes, that has seen a few showstoppers over the years. “The day the NYC Federation of Black Cowboys rode up on horseback to the 3rd Brooklyn Country Music Festival at Southpaw was definitely the most magical moment. I never saw so many smiles,” he said. “I guess the craziest moment was probably Brownbird Rudy Relic jumping from a chair onstage at Southpaw and landing on his knees in the middle of the audience. THAT was crazy.”

See the full lineup below. Tickets are $15 on Thursday/Friday. $50 will get you a four day pass.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

North of Amarillo / Miss Tess & The Talkbacks / The Paisley Fields / The Brain Cloud / Jack Grace Band / Andrew Sovine & Friends

Friday, August 21, 2015

Julia Haltigan / Your Ex-Girlfriends / Aron Blue & The Bootleggers / Andy Friedman & The Other Failures / Gangstagrass / Susquehanna Industrial Tool & Die C0.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

CasHank Hootenanny Jamboree / Bob Jones & Jon Sholle / Terry Radigan / Lil’ Mo & the Monicats / Zephaniah & the 18 Wheelers / Lindy Loo & Her Lucky Fellers / Western Caravan featuring Thirsty Dave / The Defibulators / Sean Kershaw & The New Jack Ramblers

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Sheriff & The Goodtimers / Third Wheel Band / Jan Bell & the Maybelles / Demolition String Band / Abby Hollander Band / Mamie Minch / Ramblin’ Jack Elliot