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Lead Belly's Last Sessions Box set

5.0 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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Audio CD, Box set, September 25, 1994
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

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

Track Listings

Disc: 1

  1. Yes, I Was Standing In The Bottom
  2. Yes, I'm Going Down To Louisiana
  3. I Ain't Going Down To The Well No More
  4. Dick Ligger's Holler
  5. Miss Liza Jane
  6. Dog Latin Song
  7. Leaving Blues
  8. Go Down, Old Hannah
  9. Blue Tail Fly
  10. Nobody In This World Is Better Than Us
  11. We're In The Same Boat, Brother
  12. Looky, Looky Yonder
  13. Jolly O' The Ransom
  14. Old Ship Of Zion
  15. Bring Me A Little Water, Silver
  16. Mistreatin' Mamma
  17. Black Betty
  18. Ain't Going Down To The Well No More
  19. I'm Going Back Down In Louisiana
  20. I Don't Know You, What Have I Done
  21. Rock Island Line
  22. Old Man, Will Your Dog Catch A Rabbit?
  23. Shorty George
  24. Stewball
  25. Bottle Up & Go
  26. You Know I Got To Do It
  27. Ain't It A Shame To Go Fishing On A Sunday
  28. I Ain't Gonna Drink Anymore
  29. Winnsboro Cotton Mill Blues
  30. My Lindy Lou
  31. I'm Thinking Of A Friend
  32. He Never Said A Mumbling Word
  33. I Don't Want No More Of Army Life
  34. In The World
  35. I Want To Go Home

Disc: 2

  1. New Iberia
  2. Dancing With Tears In My Eyes
  3. John Henry
  4. Salty Dog
  5. National Defense Blues
  6. Easy, Mr. Tom
  7. Relax Your Mind
  8. Bottle Up And Go
  9. Polly Wolly Wee
  10. Pig Latin Song (2nd Version)
  11. Hawaiian Song
  12. Drinkin' Lum Y A Alla
  13. The Grey Goose
  14. Silver City Bound
  15. The Titanic
  16. Death Letter Blues
  17. Mary Don't You Weep
  18. He Never Said A Mumbling Word

Disc: 3

  1. Midnight Special
  2. Boll Weevil Song
  3. Careless Love
  4. Easy Rider
  5. Cry For Me
  6. Ain't Going To Drink No More (De Kalb Blues)
  7. Birmingham Jail
  8. Old Riley
  9. Julie Ann Johnson
  10. It's Tight Like That
  11. 4, 5 & 9
  12. Good Morning Babe, How Do You Do?
  13. Jail House Blues
  14. Well, You Know I Had To Do It
  15. Irene
  16. 25 Cent Dude
  17. How Come You Do Me Like You Do?
  18. Hello Central
  19. Hesitation Blues
  20. I'll Be Down On The Last Bread Wagon

Disc: 4

  1. Somebody's Diggin' My Potatoes
  2. Springtime In The Rockies
  3. Chinatown
  4. Rock Island Line
  5. Backwater Blues
  6. Sweet Mary
  7. Irene
  8. Easy, Mr. Tom
  9. In The Evening, When The Sun Goes Down
  10. I'm Alone Because I Love You
  11. House Of The Rising Sun
  12. Mary Don't You Weep
  13. Talk About Fannin Street
  14. Fannin Street
  15. Sugared The Beer
  16. Didn't Old John Cross The Water
  17. Nobody Knows You When You're Down And Out
  18. Bully Of The Town
  19. Sweet Jenny Lee
  20. Yellow Gal
  21. He Was The Man
  22. We're In The Same Boat, Brother
  23. Leaving Blues

Product Details

  • Audio CD (September 25, 1994)
  • Number of Discs: 4
  • Format: Box set
  • Note on Boxed Sets: During shipping, discs in boxed sets occasionally become dislodged without damage. Please examine and play these discs. If you are not completely satisfied, we'll refund or replace your purchase.
  • Label: Smithsonian Folkways
  • ASIN: B000001DJC
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #160,635 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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By B. Johnson on April 16, 2003
Format: Audio CD
These four disks are recorded on analog audio tape. The only ones existing of Leadbelly. (all other leadbelly recordings are straight to vinyl) The recodings were made in the living room of a folk song collector, on two or three seperate nights. Since the first night leadbelly didn't bring his guitar he sings acapella most of the first disk. The other three disks have his 12 string accompanyment. The improved sound quality becomes very apparent here. Unlike most of his records you can hear all 12 strings! It sounds beautiful. Another benefit of these being on audio tape is that Leadbelly can potentially play a song much longer than in prior recording. However he seldom does. Being more informal than a recoding studio it also gives insight as to what Leadbelly's set list may have been like at a concert or everyday party. Though these individual song versions may not be the definative versions, or Leadbelly at his best, all these songs are gems and a must have for any folk collection. Also be warned that due to the informal nature of these recordings, songs are at times cropped in the beginning or end due to the tape running out.

Towards the end of the disks Leadbellys wife Martha sings with him. In all due respect to Martha she sort of slows the momentum of this collection down. Though I'm sure Leadbelly always encouraged people to sing along with his songs, and he can be heard doing so here.

The brightest gem of this collection may be listening to Leadbelly laugh at his own singing on the funny classic, Diggin' My Potatoes. Or being able to hear him slap his knee in time on Salty Dog.

Summary: Sping for it. Its something you won't find on any other collection.
Comment 17 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: Audio CD
Prior to this record, Huddie Ledbetter was confined to the limitations of the recording technology of the day. This resulted in an abundance of two-to-three minute long gems (as much as would fit on an acetate disc) which, while brilliant, obscured the essence of Leadbelly's artistry as a "songster". Fortunately for us and the evolution of popular music as a whole, shortly before this giant of a man (who survived having his throat cut, being shot at by the chain-gang boss as he escaped with ball-and-chain in hand, a suicide attempt as a last resort from prison, and the finicky tastes of New York high society which regarded him as little more than an amazing novelty) succumbed to Lou Gehrig's Disease, new technology was introduced that allowed him to loosen up and let the music flow naturally.
And a motherlode of music it is. While the first CD is comprised of accapella field hollers and spirituals, the other three are filled with some of the most incredible guitar work you'll ever hear, bar none. As Huddie (pronounced Hyoo-dee) himself explains to the listener, he learned guitar "sittin' by the bass-side of the piana" in honky-tonks on Shreveport, Louisiana's Fannin Street. Therefore his aggressive 12-string guitar style is informed by a rollicking boogie-woogie barrelhouse/ragtime feel, that often sounds like several guitarists at once. This is best exemplified in his own ode to Fannin Street, "Cry For Me", and the rag "Easy, Mr. Tom", which has enjoyed many permutations, "Hot Dog" by Blind Lemon Jefferson and "Cannonball Rag" by the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band among them. As Leadbelly comments as the tune ends, "It's so easy when you know how."
Leadbelly knew some thousand songs, and this collection is merely the tip of the iceberg.
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Comment 13 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: Audio CD
(4 CDs: 64'/60'/63'/64') I entirely agree that this is indeed essential Lead Belly. However, I would point out to the unwary buyer that these are not commercial studio takes; they were recorded by Frederic Ramsey Jr. in his home, in a room set up as a makeshift studio. Sound is not a problem, but the CDs contain some talk - not only Lead Belly's introductions to the songs, as he frequently gave on his recordings, but there is also some lengthier discussion, including with the other people in the room. In addition, several "songs" are mere fragments. All this is invaluable to any serious folk music fan, but on the other hand it can be quite distracting for casual listening. These are CDs that you will want to play in order to study them...
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Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
I love LeadBelly.he reaches me.I didn't know this existed until recently.
it's Leadbelly singing and talking through his knowledge of American music.
he sings children s songs,blues of course and it's hearing his voice which makes a strong
impression.LeadBelly is one of the most important artists ever.that's just a fact.
it reaches even into our age with Kurt Cobain covering him.

4 CD's.I listened straight through.
my fav story is about a woman who's locked up in a psych ward,very sick.
then her husband comes to visit,brings a guitar,plays her a blues and she gets well.
music can heal seems to be Leadbelly's message.
he tells stories from his life like this and you have like a 100 songs.
I would get this no matter what.
if you play guitar or singer/songwriter yourself,you have to hear this before you
make your next move.
this puts things in perspective.

I would pay whatever.this is the best.
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