Leadbelly – Complete Commercial Recordings – 1935-1947 Vol 2 (17 June 1940-Summer1943)
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After a series of false starts and blind alleys in the first few years after his release from Angola Penitentiary in 1934, Lead Belly’s career had begun, by the beginning of the 1940’s to settle comfortably into the activity surrounding the burgeoning urban folk music revival. Although he had severed his ties with John Lomax in 1935, he remained close with Alan Lomax, who continued to record Lead Belly for the Library of Congress as well as arranging for several key commercial sessions.
As Lead Belly was beginning to become recognised he was introduced to a man called Moses Asch. Asch was born in Poland in 1905 into a family with political backgrounds and after moving around Europe the family settled in America. This upbringing had an effect on Asch, fostering a lifelong curiosity and tolerance for ideas outside the mainstream. As such Asch found work in the field of electronics and subsequently founded Asch Records in 1939. In May and July 1941 Asch recorded the first of many sessions with Lead Belly. Exploring a previously unrecorded aspect of Lead Belly’s vast repertory he released “Play Parties in Song and Dance”, “Work songs of the U.S.A.” and a combined “Work and Play Party Songs”.
The titles on this CD come from these sessions, containing the first releases of the folk standards Take This Hammer, Rock Island Line and the first recorded instance of Lead Belly accompanying himself on his original instrument, the concertina or button accordion, on the track Corn Bread Rough. In another session Lead Belly recorded the previously unreleased Irene, a track that would posthumously bring him worldwide recognition. An alternative take of Irene is also included with Sonny Terry accompanying on Harmonica.
It is truly unfortunate that on the cusp of commercial acceptance that Lead Belly did not live long enough to witness his dream of popular success.Further recordings by Lead Belly can be found on Documents DOCD-1018, DOCD-5226, DOCD-5227, DOCD-5228, DOCD-5276, DOCD-5310, DOCD-5311, DOCD-5411, DOCD-5461, DOCD-5568, DOCD-5579, DOCD-5591, DOCD-5592, DOCD-5593, DOCD-5594, DOCD-5595, DOCD-5640, DOCD-5664, DOCD-5659, DOCD-5676.