LEAD BELLY: Just don’t go pigeon-holing the guy

1st February 2017

Title: Midnight Special
Label: Soul Jam

This CD collection features iconic songs that would influence a host of talented musicians from The Beatles to Johnny Cash and from Pete Seeger himself to Jimmie Rodgers.

Lead Belly or Huddie Ledbetter as he was also known, was an intriguing figure because he is not what most people assume him to be. That is, most people see him as a specialist blues artist, pure and simple and, frankly, this is not the case. Not the case at all. In fact, if you wish to nit pick, you could say that Lead Belly was a pure folk singer in the American tradition. He was as much folk as Pete Seeger was. As much as Woody Guthrie was. That might surprise some people but Lead Belly was a victim of racial stereotyping as a lot of black musicians were, “The guy was black, he played guitar, ergo he was a blues man.” The blues was just one of many genres that he tackled during hiscareer.

In his younger days, Lead Belly met up and played with Blind Lemon Jefferson around 1912. It was then that he changed his 6-string to a 12-string guitar. This would be his life-long companion and the source of his trademark sound found here via free flowing songs such as Alabama Bound, Goodnight, Irene and Rock Island Line.

The sound quality is restricted in terms of dynamics and soundstage but the sources are all 78s and so, in those terms, the sonics are pretty darned good. The clean-up operation has been successful and surprisingly focused in termsof the precision of both the vocal delivery and background harmonies which are all tight, without any wavering or smearing.

In the same series, also look out for Charley Patton’s Down the Dirt Road Blues, 1929-1934, newly remastered over two CDs.