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Reviewers: Don Mather, Dick Stafford, Marc Bridle, John Eyles, Ian Lace, Colin Clarke, Jack Ashby



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LEADBELLY

ROCK ISLAND LINE

Naxos Folk Legends 8.120675

Original Recordings 1935-1943

 

 

Huddie Ledbetter - guitar, vocals

Sonny Terry - vocal ( 17 ) harmonica ( 16, 17, 18 )

1. Black Snake Moan

2. Four Day Worry Blues

3. Packin' Trunk Blues

4. Honey, I'm All Down And Out

5. Becky Deem, She Was A Gamblin' Girl

6. Pig Meat Papa

7. Fannin Street

8. Frankie And Albert

9. De Kalb Blues

10. Looky Looky Yonder - Black Betty - Yallow Woman's Door Bells

11. The Bourgeois Blues

12. Poor Howard - Green Corn

13. The Boll Weevil

14. The Gallis Pole

15. Ain't Goin' Down To The Well No Mo' - Go Down Old Hannah

16. Good Morning Blues

17. How Long

18. Irene

19. Rock Island Line

While this is not my normal choice in music, I must say that I found this new compilation absolutely fascinating. Leadbelly is one of the genuine roots of so much contemporary music. In his work can be heard the blues, folk, country and various shades of rock and roll. There is even an element of popular theatre in his highly personal and dramatic interpretations of this highly original material. The composer credits are all either Leadbelly's or Traditional.

This is obviously theamongst the earliest offerings in the country blues style and the story of the artist is as unusual as the music itself must have seemed to the innocent listener at the time of the first release of these sides. Huddie Ledbetter was four years into a thirty year sentence for murder when John Lomax discovered him and managed to engineer his release so that he could record him and present him in concert.

Songs such as "Irene", "The Boll Weevil" and "Frankie And Albert" are perhaps the best known but there are many more highlights to be found on this disc and whilst the style is quite primitive by modern standards there is a charm and sincerity which pervades the whole and causes these performances to hold an air of fascination and musicality which, Ifor one, find quite irresistible. The vocals are superb and the guitar accompaniment is unique in its unschooled surety. This is an essential recording.

 

Dick Stafford

 


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