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Local Roots Act

Tarbox Ramblers

Ramblin' through great American music

Tarbox Ramblers Sure, Cambridge's Tarbox Ramblers play a lot of old music -- essentially whatever catches the ear of singer/guitarist Michael Tarbox as he flips through the catalogue of history: Delta blues, Appalachian folk, mountain country, homespun pop, and even a lick of Hot Club jazz. But Tarbox retools everything from Charley Patton's "Oh Death" to the summer-camp favorite about the racehorse Stewball according to his own taste, rewriting and recasting however he pleases.

Oh yeah. And the "kids" like it, too. At least that's how it seems at the band's residencies every Friday at Green Street Grill and every Saturday at the Burren, where mostly just-out-of-college crowds drink and dance and roar along.

"Even if people haven't heard a lot of this music, it's something they're secretly familiar with. They know it's American music, their music," explains Tarbox, who's an appealing foggy-throated singer and a ripping slide guitarist. "Also, there's no irony. It's very raw, straightforward. I'm describing a situation, not telling you my feelings. People appreciate that after so many bands that subject them to their emotions. I take that burden off them. The impersonality says there's something beyond me, something bigger that involves us."

It helps that the humble, friendly Tarbox and his crew -- drummer Jon Cohan, fiddler Dan Kellar, and upright bassist Johnny Sciascia -- make everything stomp and swing like hell. What else would the area's finest group of ensemble players do?

If you've missed them at their residencies recently, it's because the Tarbox Ramblers have just started touring to support their brand-new debut CD Tarbox Ramblers, a gambol through the dusty back roads of American music with a detour through the house-rocking present.

-- Ted Drozdowski

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