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World Music CD Reviews North American

Charlie Haden

By Stella Katsipoutis
Published October 9, 2008

Charlie Haden Family & Friends: Rambling Boy
Decca Records

Though widely known as a jazz legend, Charlie Haden embraces his roots in this 19-song tribute to the mountain and bluegrass music he sang alongside his brothers and sister on the “Haden Family Radio Show” at the age of two. Haden now passes this experience along to his own family, featuring performances by Haden’s triplet daughters (Rachel, Tanya and Petra) and his son Josh (all but Tanya have worked as rock musicians). They are joined by such ringers as Roseanne Cash, Vince Gill, Elvis Costello, and Jack Black (who is married to Tanya Haden). Intermixing bluegrass twanging with jazzy beats and Christian libretto, Rambling Boy oscillates between morose melodies and lighthearted rhythms. Themes of loneliness and long-lost love populate this set, often poignantly supported by dobro, fiddle, guitar, piano, and bass. Several tunes are strikingly delightful: Jack Black delivers a straight rendition of “Old Joe Clark,” and Josh Haden and Jerry Douglas’ tender version of “Spiritual” quivers with emotion. At the closing, Charlie Haden steps into the spotlight with a vintage recording of a two-year-old Haden yodeling with his father, and then a present-day dedication to his mother “Oh Shenandoah.”