Document Records - Vintage Blues and Jazz

Review of Leadbelly

There's a reason why Leadbelly sang his way out of prison twice. As these reasonably clear recordings demonstrate, the man not only popularised immortal classics like "Good Night Irene", he was a charismatic entertainer who could render a crowd spellbound.

The first three cuts were recorded in New York and include an interpretation of "Good Morning Blues", featuring jazz trumpeter Bunk Johnson, for an interesting folk-meets-jazz effect. The remaining 18, recorded in Austin on June 15th, 1949, serve as Leadbelly's farewell performance -as he died six months later from complications to Lou Gehrig's disease.

Sadly, at one point Leadbelly vowed to return, but only after he changed doctors, obviously realising how seriously ill he was. Even while performing in a wheelchair, the 12 string guitar strumming balladeer enthralled all, introducing each song with folksy banter, modest sincerity, and a delightful sense of humour.

There are hollers, a tune learned in France ("Scrambled Egg Song - C'est Bon"), and even a children's song "Skip To My Lou", in addition to staples "Good Night Irene" and "Rock Island Line". For the show's finale, Leadbelly sings a couple of songs, "Old Ship Of Zion", "I Will Be So Glad When I Get Home" with his harmonising wife, Margaret.

A significant volume of the Leadbelly discography; this is the rest of the story.

Dan Willging, Denver, Colorado. Dirty Linen Magazine

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