In the words of founder Michael Tarbox, the Tarbox Ramblers are a musical group probably best labelled as 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. Expressing the need to follow the musical traditions of hillbilly music and Delta blues reinterpreted for 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, and their first 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.”