Leadbelly – The Remaining Library Of Recordings Vol. 3 1935
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The session on this Leadbelly CD was recorded in March 1935, Wilton, Connecticut. This was to be a very productive time for Leadbelly and over these sessions he recorded around eighty-nine songs. John and Alan Lomax encouraged Leadbelly during these recordings to perform not only the songs but also the stories behind them. Leadbelly remade all of his songs trying to put them into their context, creating spoken interludes about the background of the song, the events surrounding a song or his personal involvement in the song. “He created those cante-fables (the half spoken, partially sung introductions) in a month,” said Alan Lomax. “For me that was the most remarkable thing he ever did.”
The first Leadbelly track on this volume Governer O.K. Allen recounts the story of when John Lomax recorded Leadbelly in Angola prison. Other tracks include I’m Down And Out which describes a mule skinner who was so good he could “write ‘nitials on de mule’s hide”, a version of country singer Jimmie Rodger’s “Daddy and Home”, here called Dear Old Daddy, replete with a good Texas yodel, the bawdy songs I’m Gonna Hold It In Her While She’s Young And Tender and What You Gonna Do With Your Long Tall Daddy, whilst Dicklicker’s Holler is a wonderful mixture of field holler and blues. There are also two versions of Frankie And Albert which is the most famous of all the American murder ballads. The Lomaxes described this song as “Leadbelly’s Ninth Symphony” and is a great example of the mix of spoken word and singing.
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 aluminum 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.