Leadbelly Vol 4 1935 – 1938
, vocal, 12-String guitar.
With contributions by Jim and Sarah Garland
Genres: Blues, Country Blues, Texas Blues, Country Blues Guitar, Country Blues, Bottleneck-slide Guitar, Folk.
The Leadbelly sessions on this CD were recorded between 1935 and 1938 in Wilton, Washington, Pineville and Havers studio, New York City. Leadbelly continued to record not only the songs but he also 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.
The first session includes the tracks Death Letter Blues
which recounts the tale of a man who had left home seven years before, returning home only when his wife dies, Dicklicker’s Holler
is a wonderful mixture of field holler and blues, Whoa, Back Buck
which provides an explanation of how to drive oxen. The highlight of the next session is a version of Frankie and Albert
in which Leadbelly plays six string, slide guitar on his lap and at one point picking out the tune with harmonics. This track was seen by John and Alan Lomax as Leadbelly’s ‘Ninth Symphony’ and the opening stanzas suggest just how fully the singer annotated it:
Frankie was a woman,
Made a hundred dollars,
Buy her man a suit of clo’es,
Was her man,
Lawd, he done her wrong.
The murder ballad continues:
Frankie went a-walkin’,
Did not go for fun,
Had under her apron Albert’s .41,
Gonna kill my man,
’cause he done me wrong.
One of the last tracks on this CD Rock of Ages Leadbelly is accompanied by Jim and Sarah Garland who were Mining Union activists and this reflects his growing following in the political/urban folk scene.
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.