Last updated July 25th 2016

Uzi Ramirez/Photo: Ayelet Dekel

Uzi Ramirez/Photo: Ayelet Dekel

There is an ache and a resilience in Elizabeth Cotten’s music, and glimmers of joy, sunlight on a deep, dark lake.  The Tel Aviv Blues Festival celebrated Elizabeth Cotten on Friday, July 15th, 2016 at the Ozen Bar. Uzi Ramirez put together a tribute infused with Cotten’s songs and spirit, vividly alive in the moment with new arrangements and interpretations by a gathering of talented musicians. Uzi Ramirez, Gilad Abro, Maya Dunietz, Alon Lotringer and Ruth Dolores Weiss – in solos, duets, trios and ultimately, all coming together for a rousing finale of Freight Train. Timeless songs on an enchanted summer afternoon, the ephemeral pleasure that lives on in memory – this is one of the treasures of the festival.

Alon Lotringer and Gilad Abro/Photo: Ayelet Dekel

Alon Lotringer and Gilad Abro/Photo: Ayelet Dekel

Elizabeth “Libba” Cotten (1895-1987), taught herself to play guitar as a child (borrowing her brother’s instrument). Left-handed, she developed her signature finger-picking style playing on a right-hand guitar. She didn’t play for many years, until serendipity brought her in touch with the Seeger family, and she remembered her music.  She was declared a National Heritage Fellow by the National Endowment for the Arts and was designated a “living treasure” by the Smithsonian Institution. Cotten received a Grammy Award for Best Ethnic or Traditional Recording in 1985 for her album Elizabeth Cotten Live. Her music has influenced generations of musicians, and her songs have been covered by many artists, including Freight Train by the Grateful Dead, and Shake Sugaree by Bob Dylan.

Maya Dunietz and Uzi Ramirez/Photo: Ayelet Dekel

Maya Dunietz and Uzi Ramirez/Photo: Ayelet Dekel

Uzi Ramirez and Ruth Dolores Weiss/Photo: Ayelet Dekel

Uzi Ramirez and Ruth Dolores Weiss/Photo: Ayelet Dekel

The sweet intensity and close rapport between the performers onstage, and their connection to the songs was something wonderful to experience. For the space of a summer afternoon, the Ozen Bar in Tel Aviv was transported to Elizabeth Cotten’s back porch.From Uzi Ramirez and Gilad Abro slapping out a rhythm intricate and lively on the guitar and double bass (respectively), to feeling the hard times and tough spirit of Alon Lotringer’s  Oh Babe It Ain’t No Lie, to the playful duet of Maya Dunietz and Uzi Ramirez on Washington Blues, and Ruth Dolores Weiss singing to break every beating heart – it was an interlude of beauty in a rough world, the essence of the blues.

Freight Train finale/Photo: Ayelet Dekel

Freight Train finale/Photo: Ayelet Dekel

The Tel Aviv Blues Festival is produced by Yamit Hagar, Nobody’s Fault Productions & Kvish61.

Links: Elizabeth Cotten

Freight Train and Other North Carolina Folk Songs and Tunes

Shake Shugaree

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