Complete Recorded Works, Vol. 5 (1944-1946) by Leadbelly

Label: Document Records.
Release Date: September 1, 1994.
Recording Time: 70 minutes.
Release Info: Compilation Studio Recording.
Recording Date: October 27, 1944 - October, 1946.

Styles: Country Blues, Folk-Blues, Songster, Acoustic Blues, Folksongs.

The Austrian Document Records label continues its series of CDs presenting Leadbelly's commercial recordings in chronological order from 1939 with this fifth volume, which picks up at the end of the singer's series of recordings for Capitol Records in Los Angeles in October 1944. Although the next batch of performances (tracks three through 14) come from a live performance for children in San Francisco in February 1945 that was broadcast on the radio, they fit into the "commercial recordings" framework because the tape was later pressed onto a disc by Folkways Records. By June 1946, Leadbelly was back in New York doing informal sessions for Moses Asch, soon to found Folkways, though most of these tracks were issued on its predecessor, Disc Records. Here, the singer is joined by such friends as Brownie McGhee, Woody Guthrie, and Cisco Houston, as well as jazz musicians Willie "The Lion" Smith and George "Pops" Foster. Many of Leadbelly's better-known songs are included in these sessions (in many cases as re-recordings), among them "Irene, Goodnight," "John Henry" (two versions), "Boll Weevil," "Rock Island Line" (a version that served as a blueprint for Lonnie Donegan's hit cover), "Alabama Bound," and "Midnight Special." The singer is in prime shape, and his guitar playing is typically forceful. The tracks have been transferred from old vinyl discs, with hiss and crackles audible occasionally, but the sound quality is generally good. - Review by William Ruhlmann.

Document Records (DOCD-5311): The recordings on this CD come from the final years of Lead Belly's career which include a live radio session with children and other contemporary artists such as Woody Guthrie, Sonny Terry, Cisco Houston, Brownie McGhee, Willie 'The Lion' Smith and George 'Pops' Foster. When Lead Belly returned from his yearlong stay in California he was a frustrated and disappointed man. He had hoped to break into films whilst he was there, but Hollywood had a hard enough time accepting the likes of Lena Horne and Paul Robeson to begin contending with a two time murderer. The recordings that Lead Belly had made for Capitol had been good from an aesthetic stand point but the mainstream record buying public were some years away from appreciating his roughly hewn musical abilities. The two blues tracks (Sweet Mary and Grasshoppers In My Pillow) that open this CD are from the Capitol session. Whilst in San Francisco Lead Belly recorded a live radio session for the Standard School Broadcast with children. Lead Belly had an often overlooked affinity with children and demonstrated this with a change of the lyrics to Irene Goodnight, altering the line "...if Irene turns her back on me, I'm gonna take Morphine and die" to "...I'm gonna run away and fly". Throughout the show he explained the differences between the types of songs in his repertoire. When Lead Belly returned to New York he recorded a further series of titles for Moe Asch. In these sessions he teamed up with Sonny Terry, Brownie McGhee, Willie 'The Lion' Smith, George 'Pops' Foster recording the tracks such as Diggin' My Potatoes, Easy Rider and John Henry. In another session Lead Belly was accompanied by Woody Guthrie and Cisco Houston. Lead Belly had finally found a niche with the urban folk set but remained an underground phenomenon for the few remaining years of his life.

Personnel: Lead Belly - vocals, 12-swtring guitar.
With contributions by Sonny Terry - harmonica; Willie "The Lion" Smith - piano; Brownie McGhee - guitar; George "Pops" Foster - stand-up bass, Woody Guthrie - vocals, guitar; Cisco Houston - vocals, guitar.

Credits: Big Bill Broonzy - composer; George Foster - sax (baritone); Woody Guthrie - guest artist, guitar, vocals; Cisco Houston - guitar, vocals; Lead Belly - composer, guitar, primary artist, vocals; Alan Lomax - composer; John A. Lomax - composer; Brownie McGhee - guitar; Johnny Parth - producer; Ken Romanowski - liner notes; Willie "The Lion" Smith - piano; Sonny Terry - harmonica; Traditional - composer; Gerhard Wessely - mastering.

Tracks: 1) Sweet Mary blues; 2) Grasshoppers in my pillow; 3) Irene, goodnight; 4) John Henry; 5) Boll weevil; 6) When a man`s a long way from home; 7) Good morning blues; 8) By and by when the morning comes; 9) Medley: a) Everytime I feel the spirit b) Swing low sweet chariot c) They hung him on the cross; 10) Swing low sweet chariot; 11) Rock Island line; 12) Julie Ann Johnson; 13) Haul away Joe; 14) Christmas is coming; 15) We're in the same boat together; 16) Diggin' my potatoes; 17) Defense blues; 18) Easy rider; 19) Pigmeat; 20) John Henry; 21) Alabama bound; 22) Ham and eggs; 23) Yellow gal; 24) Stew Ball; 25) Gray goose; 26) Midnight Special; 27) Green corn; 28) Fiddler's dram.