PAUL SIEBEL – Jack-Knife Gypsy – (Elektra) – 1971

Paul Siebel - Jack Knife Gypsy

Check out my other comment on Paul Siebel for background detail.

I fully expect (as I’m writing) this comment to be concise, errr short.

Siebel only put out two studio albums, this, and his debut album “Woodsmoke and Oranges” (1970). A live album followed in 1978 and a compilation (of the first two albums) followed after that.

His output and exposure (to Americans), until recently, was similar to Rodriguez (two studio album 1970, 1971, a live album from 1979 and a compilation made up of the two studio albums). He was recording at the same time Rodriguez, they were similar ages (Siebel was born in 1937 and Rodriguez in 1942), they were augmented singer-songwriters looking at the world, and both were indebted to Bob Dylan.

The big obvious difference apart from Rodriguez recent popularity is that Rodriguez had a massive following in Australia (I know that first hand) and New Zealand and to a lesser extent, South Africa (lesser than Australia and New Zealand) all through his wilderness period in the USA (the “Searching for Sugarman” was wildly inaccurate historically and, perhaps, intellectually dishonest).

Siebel, on the other hand is still only known to cultists and collectors.

Siebel, despite urban origins, has produced a rural country rock Americana (or pastoral rock with big doses of old-timey country and folk), album. Like others of the time he was looking at the world and trying to make sense of it by making observations hidden in elusive imagery wrapped in good tunes.

Siebel’s first album, a great album, wasn’t successful. He followed it up with this. There was more production and more money. The all-star backing band assembled for the album contained the cream of the emerging country rock scene including Byrds guitarist Clarence White, mandolin virtuoso David Grisman, country pedal-steel guru Buddy Emmons, Eagles guitarist Bernie Leadon, and Cajun/country fiddle legend Doug Kershaw, session drummer extraordinaire Russ Kunkel among others.

The difficult second album for a singer generally, and for a singer-songwriter specifically, (because most of you best songs, one assumes, are used on your first album) is well known. Whether these songs were already written or tunes composed between albums I do not know but Siebel doesn’t suffer from the second album danger.

The style owes a lot to Dylan (something Siebel acknowledges) but he has enough talent to make his music distinctive. The songs are strong though, perhaps, not as strong as the first album (it’s a close call), the musicianship, not surprisingly is above par and, the feel was just right for the times.

It sold nothing.

Perhaps it was a little to quirky but Jim Kweskin had a similar (albeit small) audience. Such is life in the (inventive) margins of music.

With the resurgence of Americana and alt-country, this album as well as Siebel’s other record, have been resurrected by the hardcore aficionados of those genres.

The only question remains, then, ‘where is his documentary’?

So that he can go through the same resurrection as Rodriguez.

He deserves it.

All songs by Paul Siebel.

Tracks (best in italics)

      Side One

  • Jasper and the Miners – a Dylanesque tune which in Dylan fashion is a little obscure in intent but great nevertheless.
  • If I Could Stay – a country-ish ode
  • Jack-Knife Gypsy – a mid tempo country folk song
  • Prayer Song – quite a beautiful song with tasteful strings.
  • Legend of the Captain's Daughter – a Cajun hoedown style song. I assume Doug Kershaw is playing fiddle on this because it is his style of music. though the themes are distinctly Atlantic maritime. This has the gravitas of an old sea shanty and is wonderful.

      Side Two

  • Chips Are Down – a country folk lament
  • Pinto Pony – a old school cowboy song updated to the Dylan area. I love it.
  • Hillbilly Child – an old school country boogie which is a hoot.
  • Uncle Dudley – quite an affecting song about an Uncle with great stories, all untrue but who was always there for you and made you feel better.
  • Miss Jones – the narrator, a poor boy, is shagging a rich girl and has all the benefits of the same but it's not as easy as it seems …

                  Now all the boys give me the eye

                  They joke about some cherry-pie

                  But it ain't easy to be on call

                  And have to bounce like a rubber ball


                  I'll take the poor girl who eats beans

                  The kind who wears them old blue jeans

                  She'll treat me like I was a king

                  And not like a monkey on a string

  • Jeremiah's Song – an anti-war song done as old-timey spiritual.

And …

Wonderful. A great country rock folk old-timey singer-songwriter album (how big is that group?) … I'm keeping it.

Chart Action

Nothing nowhere


The whole album:

Legend of the Captain's Daughter

mp3 attached

Pinto Pony

mp3 attached






  • Personnel: Paul Siebel – guitar, vocals / Clarence White – guitar / Robert Warford – guitar / Buddy Emmons – steel guitar / David Grisman – mandolin / Jim Buchanan – violin, viola / Doug Kershaw – fiddle / Billy Wolfe – bass / Bernie Leadon – guitar / Gary White – bass / Ralph Shuckett – organ, piano / Russ Kunkel – drums / produced by Robert W. Zachary, Jr.
  • "In the ‘80s, Siebel jumped off the train, leaving his musical career behind and working a series of day jobs. In the years to come, he would make the occasional, extremely infrequent guest appearance, but his days of gigging and songwriting were behind him for good. Eventually, he moved to Maryland, where he ultimately landed an outdoorsy job with the Parks Department, and started avidly pursuing an interest in sailing, but no matter how much distance Siebel puts between himself and his songs, they can never lose their power. Over the years, several of his tunes – not just “Louise” – have been recorded by other artists, from Emmylou Harris to David Bromberg. In 2004, his Elektra albums were reissued together in England as a twofer, earning ecstatic reviews from the British music press, and this year, in MOJO Magazine’s celebration of Elektra’s 60th anniversary, this writer had the opportunity to single out Siebel’s debut as one of the label’s shining moments. Siebel may not be singing the songs anymore, but they’re still out there waiting to be discovered — or re-discovered. As another Greenwich Village songwriter, Richard Meyer, once said: “A record is like a time bomb, you can never tell when it’s gonna go off.”"


Paul Siebel - Jack Knife Gypsy - gatefold               Paul Siebel - Jack Knife Gypsy - back

About Franko

Hi, I'm just a person with a love of music, a lot of records and some spare time. My opinions are comments not reviews and are mine so don't be offended if I have slighted your favourite artist. I have listened to a lot of music and I don't pretend to be impartial. You can contact me on though I would rather you left a comment. I also sell music at Cheers
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