The Tarbox Ramblers are a musical group probably best labeled as Adult Alternative or blues/folk revival; in the words of founder Michael Tarbox, a "primitive blues and jug band". The original line-up with Robbie Phillips (washtub bass), J. Place (harmonica), Mickey Bones (drums, washboard and bones) and Michael Tarbox was formed in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1994.
The mid period group consisted of Tarbox (vocalist and guitarist), Daniel Kellar (violinist), Johnny Sciascia (upright bass fiddle), and Jon Cohan (drummer and percussionist). Since 2003 Nashville based musician, Scott McEwen plays (upright bass fiddle and percussion) with the Ramblers. Rob Hulsman (drums, Nine Pound Hammer) joined in 2003 and toured and recorded with the band through 2005. Expressing the need to follow the musical traditions of hillbilly music and Delta blues reinterpreted towards the modern world, they have been compared to Wilco and Cassandra Wilson.
Originally a Cambridge-area bar band, the Tarbox Ramblers were signed by Rounder Records in 1998; their eponymous debut album was released in 2000. In summer 2001, Robert Plant contacted the group, to secure them as his opening act for his Boston appearance, and was impressed enough to ask them to continue touring with him. They made the BBC's list of top CDs in 2002.
Tristram Lozaw, a reviewer from the Boston Herald, described the group as follows:
- "If the Rolling Stones had happened 10 years earlier, hailed from Memphis and been produced by Ike Turner, they might have sounded like The Tarbox Ramblers. The way the Ramblers lay down their backroads grit and raw hillbilly-rock jive, you're unlikely to hear a more genuine blast of sandpaper rhythm and roots."
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Tarbox Ramblers, Rounder Records, 2000
A Fix Back East, Rounder Records, 2004
Four From The West (limited edition live set) 2006
First Songs/Gospel Cross (limited edition early recordings) 2010