You don’t have to talk to Ramblin’ Jack Elliott very long to get a sense of his unique perspective on the world and knack for storytelling.

All you have to do is ask where’s he’s going or where he’s been.

“Well, we’re driving here in the afternoon sun, in the beautiful Midwest, with cornfields and blue skies and white clouds all around us,” said Elliott, 79, during a phone interview last week. “I like driving and I love flying, but I hate airports. I just got back from Norway and had to go through London Heathrow Airport.

“Now, I speak English, but I couldn’t find my way around; they were too busy trying to sell me tax-free liquor with their signs instead of putting up signs to tell me where to go. And I don’t like to fly British Airways, because they don’t allow guitars in the overhead compartment. They’ll put them in the luggage compartment, but I don’t trust my guitar to anyone.”

Elliott is an American folk legend who lived with Woody Guthrie for a time and knew Bob Dylan at the very beginning of his career.

And for some 60 years, he’s traveled the world keeping American folk traditions alive, singing songs about trucks, cowboys and everyday people.

On Wednesday, he’s scheduled to play a concert in Portland, at the 110-seat St. Lawrence Arts Center on Munjoy Hill. He also played the same theater about a year ago.

Elliott’s longtime friend, Peter Alexander, is a Portland resident and president of the Maine Songwriter’s Association, and he helped arrange both shows. Alexander will open for Elliott.

“He really loved playing (at the St. Lawrence) last year. He likes to see people and communicate and feel a connection, and he could really do that there,” said Alexander. “Certainly there is a historical link with him, but it’s really the pure entertainment value that brings people to his shows.”

The mix of songs Elliott plays can be eclectic to say the least, from 1930s blues and Guthrie’s work to cowboy songs and the Rolling Stones. Last year, his songs included “Diamond Joe” (which he learned while working on a rodeo as a teenager), the Carter Family’s “Engine 142,” the classic “House of the Rising Sun,” and one of his staples, “San Francisco Bay Blues.”

He mostly does other people’s songs, although he’s written a few in his day.

Elliott grew up in Brooklyn, N.Y., but ran away as a teenager to join a rodeo. He was back in New York a few years later, playing guitar with a “hillbilly” band, when he met Woody Guthrie through a musician friend. He performed and traveled with Guthrie, and lived with his family, for about three years in the early 1950s.

In the early 1960s, after living in Europe, Elliott met and mentored a young Bob Dylan, who has called Elliott his “long-lost father.”

“Invariably, people ask me about (Guthrie and Dylan), and I never get tired of talking about them, because they are two of the most brilliant people I’ve met, and I want to pay reverence to their contribution to my life,” said Elliott.

As for slowing down, Elliott has no thought of it. He continues to tour and play whenever he can.

Ask him why, and you get another answer that’s uniquely his.

“A need for cat food and diesel fuel, that’s what keeps me doing this,” said Elliott. “It’s not that I’m a music lover; it’s that I like trucks. When I’m on the road, I can see a lot of trucks.”

Staff Writer Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at:

[email protected]