Leadbelly Vol 1 1934 – 1935
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Physical CD – £15.19 | $18.99 | €14,99
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The recordings on this Leadbelly CD were originally made for the Library of Congress from July 1934 to March 1935, under the supervision of John and Alan Lomax. These sessions took place at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola while Leadbelly was still a prisoner, and also at Little Rock, Pine Bluff State Farm, Gould, Shreveport, Bellwood Prison Camp, Wilton and New York City.
The tracks that Leadbelly recorded in these sessions include many songs that he would play throughout his career. They include 2 versions of Irene and the cocaine peddler song Take A Whiff On Me. The track Boll Weavil documents the story of the insect which ravaged cotton crops in the southern states at the start of the 1900’s. Although it affected the black sharecroppers, it had an even greater impact on the prosperity of the white plantation owners. As Paul Oliver points out in “Songsters and Saints” (pp 250-251), it’s subversive nature (small, brown and inconspicuous, attacking the crop from within and virtually indestructible) gave it symbolic significance with Southern blacks (a compilation CD of including several recordings of Boll Weavil songs can be found on Document Records DOCD-5675). This Leadbelly CD also includes the track Matchbox Blues a song that Blind Lemon Jefferson, who Leadbelly dueted with on the streets of Dallas earlier on in his career, recorded for both Paramount and Okeh Records in 1927 (Documents DOCD-5017, DOCD-5018, DOCD-5019, DOCD-5020).
The sound reproduction is, by today’s high fidelity-stereophonic standards, rather dim. A great many of these recordings were made in field settings on early, primitive portable disc-cutting equipment. This equipment along with various aluminium and acetate discs, though not of the highest quality in so far as sound is concerned, has served to preserve the many brilliant performances of Leadbelly. It is felt that Leadbelly never sounded as well anywhere else as he did when he was recording for the Library. He appears relaxed, strong, crisp and creative.