Lead Belly's Last Sessions
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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
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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.
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. It includes some of his best-known work, "Goodnight Irene", "Grey Goose", "Midnight Special", and his version of "Easy Rider" ("rider" was slang for girlfriend). It also includes his interpretations of the work of Stephen Foster (of "Camptown Races" fame, and the first "pop star"), some of the most beautiful and haunting melodies, "Springtime in the Rockies" and "I'm Alone Because I Love You". "Salty Dog" finds him clapping the beat between guitar strums. He even sings a whole song in pig-latin (after explaining what pig-latin is). Also included is "Sweet Mary", written for Governor Pat Neff, which won him a pardon from prison ("If I had you Gov'na Neff like you got me/ I'd wake up in the mornin' I'd set you free...")
Occasionally he pauses to take a drink or serve up an anecdote to set up a song, strumming a chord to tune as he speaks. You feel as though you're in the room with him, watching his roughened hands play across the strings.
Sadly, perhaps his greatest known song, popularized by Nirvana, "Where Did You Sleep Last Night" (also called "In the Pines"), is missing from this collection. But apparently Kurt Cobain was introduced to Leadbelly through Last Sessions, and it was one of his favorite albums. Also regrettably missing is "John Hardy", the outlaw ballad rocked up by Uncle Tupelo.
Leadbelly is unique among much early blues music, which seems to often be perceived as depressing. Leadbelly's work is uplifting, joyous, funny (and fun), and perfect for inspiring a good mood. There's nothing stale about it-- it's as vibrant as the day it was set to tape. As Leadbelly sings, "Somebody should ask you people who made up this song/ Tell 'em Huddie Ledbetter done been here and gone..."