The press release calls this "The most famous and sought-after blues & folk recordings ever made"; these 96 tracks (two unissued) have inspired American artists as diverse as Neil Young and William Styron. Nearly all of Leadbelly's most famous songs are here- Rock Island Line; Midnight Special; Goodnight, Irene; Easy Rider , etc.-plus gripping storytelling, all recorded on tape in 1948 for the only time in his career (hence better fidelity and uninterrupted recording). These four CDs come in a limited edition slipcase with extensive notes, rare photos, bio and discography.
Leadbelly's Last Sessions
is a remarkable document. Recorded over the course of three nights in 1948, approximately one year before his death, Sessions
constitutes the only commercial recordings of Leadbelly ever made on magnetic tape. The sound here is still primitive by most standards, but it's a vast improvement over the quality of his earlier sides. On this four-disc collection, Huddie Ledbetter sets down as much of his repertoire as he could, from field hollers, blues, and country & western songs to children's tunes, ballads, autobiographical pieces, and popular hits of the day. The tape continues to roll between takes, catching Leadbelly's shifts of moods and changes of interest. He didn't know these would be his last recordings, of course, but he seems to have saved something special for these performances, which are as freewheeling, charming, and authoritative as anything he ever recorded. --Daniel Durchholz