Josh White – Remaining Titles 1941-1947
Josh White, vocal, guitar.
Libby Holman, vocal.
With contributions by
Brownie McGhee, vocal, guitar.
Sonny Terry, harmonica.
Bill White, vocal.
John Simmons, stand-up bass.
J.C. Heard, drums.
Genres; blues, folk blues, Carolina blues
Informative booklet notes by Dave Moore
During the 1940s Josh White made the transition from blues and gospel performer to night-club and cabaret act. His repertoire expanded accordingly to encompass ballads and folk songs of the white tradition. Based on the evidence of his recordings, this change-over was thought to have occurred around 1944, when folk songs and ballads first appeared on his discs. But now, new evidence dates recordings of such material for Keynote, initially believed to have been made in 1947, to the period of 1941-42. And hence, if this unconfirmed evidence is correct, it appears that Josh began recording songs other than blues and gospel some two or three years earlier than was once assumed.
Indeed, this Keynote session would represent the very first time that Josh recorded songs, like The Riddle Song, Whatcha Goin’ To Do, Evil Hearted Man, John Henry, House Of The Rising Sun, and Strange Fruit, that would become a staple part of his repertoire, being featured again many times throughout his career. Sharp-eared listeners may notice that the version of Evil Hearted Man from this session sounds uncannily like the one on Josh White Vol. 5 (DOCD- 5571) which was taken from a Stinson LP and assumed to have been originally recorded by Moe Asch in 1944. In fact the versions are identical. It appears that, when Herbert Harris compiled two Josh White LPs for his Stinson label in the mid- 19508 the material he used was derived not only from Asch recordings, as previously believed, but also from other labels. So, “Jim Crow Train” and “Hard Times” (on Vol. 5) are the same versions as on Key-note’s “Southern Exposure” album of 1941 (Vol. 4), while “Strange Fruit” (Vol. 5) is identical to the 1946 Decca recording to be heard on this CD.
As his popularity increased, Josh made an appearance in the 1945 movie “The Crimson Canary”, a B-thriller about the murder of a jazz musician. He performed at the New York Town Hall with Woody Guthrie in 1946, and the post-war boom in folk music saw Josh on his first national concert tour across the USA and into Canada during the years 1946 and 1947. During this period Josh recorded more for Decca Records, including Sometime, a remake of Whatcha Goin’ To Do, with his buddies Sonny and Brownie, amongst a batch of folk songs. He teamed up with his brother Bill, who had been a member of Josh’s Carolinians in 1940, to record four songs, including Josh And Bill Blues, a collection of traditional blues verses, and the civil rights song Jim Crow: “Lincoln set the negro free, why is he still in slavery? It’s Jim Crow!” In the summer of 1947 Josh entered the New York studio of Apollo Records to cut four numbers that were to be his final recordings in the USA for seven or eight years, including The Man Who Couldn’t Walk Around, a song about Franklin D. Roosevelt, the polio-stricken President of the USA who had died in April 1945. Roosevelt and his wife Eleanor enjoyed Josh’s music, and he was a regular visitor at both their New York country estate and the White House. The song was a moving tribute by Josh to the man who had consistently supported his art.