Haden taps his rambling roots
Charlie Haden Family and Friends
Rambling Boy (Decca)
ESSENTIAL "Old Joe Clark"
What's this, Charlie Haden's hoedown? Haden - the bassist who took part in Ornette Coleman's pioneering free-jazz recordings, has led his own landmark groups such as the Liberation Music Orchestra and Quartet West, and produced albums of quiet beauty with the likes of Pat Metheny - has done something entirely unpredictable. His new disc, "Rambling Boy," is a collection of country songs, bluegrass, Appalachian folk, and other traditional fare, recording them with members of his own family and big names including Rosanne Cash, Vince Gill, Elvis Costello, Ricky Skaggs, and Bruce Hornsby. This ain't jazz, of course, but it's eminently enjoyable, and Haden and his posse had a grand time making it for us. That much is obvious right from the start, where Haden's three daughters sing a rousing "Single Girl, Married Girl," before Gill pipes in with his own rendition of the traditional "Rambling Boy." Haden's wife, Ruth Cameron, takes a vocal turn on the old Irish tune "Down by the Salley Gardens." Even amid this album of surprises, there is an unexpected gem: comic actor Jack Black (Haden's son-in-law) singing the traditional "Old Joe Clark," with Béla Fleck on banjo. There's nothing funny about it: The music is straight out of another place and another time. [Steve Greenlee]