Josh White: The Smooth Talkin’ Man

7th February 2020

Title: The Josh White Stories Vols: I & II

Label: Jasmine 

He sang a combination of blues and folk but he was also part of the New York scene populated by the likes of Woody Guthrie, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee.

He may have been a folk revivalist but he was also a free thinking bohemian who supported civil rights in the USA.

Just flip over the included booklet in this single CD issue to see the sincere face of the man himself, shirt open, the neckline plunging.

A clue to his diversity perhaps but there was also versatility there and the fact that he could adapt his creativity to many directions including acting.

Despite this rather hip, nay trendy image, White had hardcore roots with his associations including Willie Walker whom White saw as the Art Tatum of guitarists and Blind Blake, a pioneer of the finger-style ragtime guitar.

Josh White: The Smooth Talkin' Man

Josh White never took the easy path, though, as his clashes with the corrosive McCarthy movement attests.

Accused of being a Communist sympathiser (he wasn’t), he was blacklisted. He then moved to Europe, only being able to work again when JFK invited him to appear on American TV in 1963.

It was during those dramatic years that both of these LPs where created.

Volume 1 was created over two sessions in 1956, backed by pianist Sam Benskin, Leonard Gaskin on bass and Panama Francis on drums.

From 1956 to 1957, Volume 2 was created with Benskin again, Al Hall on bass, J.C. Heard on drums plus White’s daughter, Beverley on guest vocals.

Both LPs appeared under the ABC Paramount label. 

This release is well presented with an admirable, intimate mastering that easily reflects White’s smooth, easily digestible vocal delivery that flows easily.

His guitar supplying a tight, rhythmic backing that accompanies rather than dominating.

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