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Complete Recorded Works, Vol. 7 (1947-1949) by Leadbelly

Label: Document Records.
Release Date: September 7, 2000.
Recording Time: 62 minutes.
Release Info: Compilation.
Recording Date: June 14, 1947 - 1949.

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

The six earlier volumes in Austrian reissue label Document Records' unlicensed series of albums featuring Leadbelly's commercial recordings are given the date range of 1939 to 1947. But this seventh volume runs up to the year of Leadbelly's death, 1949, after having started with a couple of airchecks from a broadcast of the This Is Jazz radio series from June 14, 1947 ("Green Corn" and "John Henry"). These tracks are followed by four recorded for the Library of Congress, and the rest of the album consists of more radio broadcasts or concert performances that were issued on LPs by Folkways Records or, in the case of the last two, "Old Ship of Zion" and "I Will Be So Glad When I Get Home," from Playboy Records' album of one of the singer's last concert at the University of Texas on June 15, 1949. This is not really a "complete" account of Leadbelly's last couple of years of recording, since it deliberately excludes the material from the Folkways albums of Leadbelly's Last Sessions, because Smithsonian Folkways has reissued those tracks on CD recently. Rather, this is a kind of addendum of odds and ends. Still, it does present mature performances of some of Leadbelly's better-known songs, including "Pick a Bale of Cotton," "Go Down, Old Hannah," "Take This Hammer," and "Good Morning Blues." Of course, by the time of the University of Texas show, he was suffering from the effects of Lou Gehrig's disease, which would kill him in December, and he was joined by his wife, Martha, on the two spirituals, apparently included here because they were left off a CD reissue of the album by Magnum in Europe. Surface noise is audible on many tracks, but the overall sound is good. - Review by William Ruhlmann.

Personnel: Leadbelly - vocal, 12-string guitar.
With contributions by: Brownie McGhee - guitar, Martha Ledbetter - vocal.
Informative booklet notes by Ken Romanowski.
Detailed discography.

Document Records (DOCD-5640): In 1947 Leadbelly's musical activities had settled into a routine of club appearances, radio broadcasts and informal jam sessions among his associates in the urban folk circle. During the previous twelve years this group of people had made connections for Leadbelly that ranged from New York Cafe Society to the film industry in Hollywood and although he made a strong impression on everyone he met, the wider music industry perceived Leadbelly as too volatile for mass marketing and consumption. By May 1949 a highly anticipated tour of France was cut short when he was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Leadbelly returned to the States to fulfil a handful of concerts. During these concerts he was showing obvious signs of this disease and within less than six months he was gone. Within months of his death, the Weavers' version of 'Irene' became one of the bestselling records of 1950. The following year Atlantic released a version of 'Irene' by Leadbelly but it barely dented the charts. This was now in the era of cold war, anti-communist witch hunts led by Joseph McCarthy in which the American folk scene came under scrutiny. It would take the rock 'n' roll revolution of the mid-fifties and the folk revival of the sixties before the general public became accustomed to this raw vernacular style of performance. With the exception of the 4 Library of Congress titles, the rest of the recordings on this CD are either live concert performances or radio broadcasts (which were occasionally before an audience). The songs presented here are a good cross section of Leadbelly's repertory, from his oldest Green Corn up through the folk standards John Henry and the cocaine peddler's Take A Whiff On Me, to songs like Whoa Black Buck and a cover version of the hillbilly hit Birmingham Jail. The religious songs Old Ship Of Zion and I Will Be Glad When I Get Home sung with his wife Martha are among some of the last recordings Leadbelly made.

Credits: Lead Belly - composer, primary artist, Alan Lomax - composer, Johnny Parth - producer, Ken Romanowski - liner notes, Traditional - composer, Gerhard Wessely - remastering.

Tracks: 1) Green corn (This Is Jazz radio broadcast); 2) John Henry (This Is Jazz radio broadcast); 3) Tell me baby what was wrong with you; 4) Noted rider; 5) Take a whiff on me; 6) Ox driving moan; 7) John Henry; 8) Pick a bale of cotton; 9) Go down, old Hannah; 10) Ain't going down to the well no more; 11) Shout on (honey I'm all out and down); 12) It was soon one morning; 13) Whoa back buck; 14) Birmingham jail (Down in the valley); 15) Take this hammer; 16) It was early one mornin' (Jail house blues); 17) Goin' back to Mary (If I had you Governor, Governor Pat Neff); 18) Come and sit down beside me; 19) Ha, ha this a way; 20) You can't lose a me, Charlie; 21) Rooster crows at midnight (Christmas Day); 22) Skip to my Lou; 23) Parting song (when you smile-o); 24) Good morning blues (WYNC Jazz Festival); 25) Ain't gonna let you worry my life no more (WYNC Jazz Festival); 26) Pretty papa (WYNC Jazz Festival); 27) Old ship of Zion (live); 28) I will be so glad when I get home.