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Complete Recorded Works, Vol. 1 (1939-1940) by Leadbelly

Label: Document Records.
Release Date: May 1, 1995.
Recording Time: 76 minutes.
Release Info: Compilation Studio Recording.
Recording Date: April 1, 1939 - June 15, 1940.

Styles: Country Blues, Folk-Blues, Songster.

The Austrian Document Records label begins its series of CDs presenting Leadbelly's commercial recordings in chronological order from 1939, although annotator Ken Romanowski acknowledges that the singer "had recorded a combined total of well over two hundred titles" prior to that date, tracks made either for the Library of Congress or ARC Records under the auspices of John Lomax. Still, most of those tracks had not been issued, and, contrarily, most became readily available later on either Elektra or Columbia Records. Two exceptions are 1935 alternate takes of "Daddy I'm Coming Back to You" (take three) and "Shorty George" (take two), which lead this album off as bonus tracks. Otherwise, the remaining 23 tracks comprise two sets of sessions from 1939 and 1940, first a bunch of recordings Leadbelly made as a solo performer for Musicraft Records, which issued them as an album called Negro Sinful Tunes, and second the first group of tracks for RCA Victor, some featuring the Golden Gate Quartet, and issued either on the album The Midnight Special and Other Prison Songs or on singles on the discount-priced Bluebird Records subsidiary. Many of Leadbelly's better-known songs are included in these sessions, among them "The Bourgeois Blues," "The Boll Weevil," "The Gallis Pole," "Pick a Bale of Cotton," "Midnight Special," "Alabama Bound," "Rock Island Line," and "Good Morning Blues." 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 throughout, but the sound quality is generally good. - Review by William Ruhlmann.

Personnel: Lead Belly - vocals, twelve-string guitar.
Includes performance by The Golden Gate Quartet.

Booklet Notes Ken Romaowski.
Detailed discography.

Document Records (DOCD-5226): In early 1939, Lead Belly was involved in a fight with another man whom he allegedly stabbed 16 times with a knife. The judge saw fit to give Lead Belly a sentence of one year (due to the fact that in between sentencing, reports Lead Belly had apprehended a bank robber and held him until the police had arrived. To help meet Lead Belly’s legal costs, Alan Lomax arranged a session with the fledgling Musicraft label. On April 1s,t 1939, Lead Belly stepped into the studio and recorded material for what was to become a five disc album (five 78 rpm records) titled "Negro Sinful Songs sung by Lead Belly". Even though Lead Belly had recorded over two hundred titles for the Library of Congress, he was virtually unknown to the record buying public. But with this album Lead Belly was to find his own attentive audience in the budding urban folk scene. Tracks 3 to 12 are taken from this session, which ran the gamut of styles from field hollers Go Down Old Hannah, work songs Looky Looky Yonder and Black Betty, a variant of the “Child Ballad No. 95”, The Gallis Pole, Afro-American ballads; Frankie & Albert and Boll Weevil, reels Poor Howard and Green Corn – which includes Lead Belly tap dancing between the two tunes, blues, including the traditional De Kalb Blues, the autobiographical Bourgeois Blues and Fannin’ Street. The rest of the tracks were recorded in New York city on 15th June 1940 for the RCA Victor who were looking toward breaking into the folk / educational market. The sessions were divided between folk material from his songster repertory, accompanied by the Golden Gate Quartet and blues material which he performed solo The older folk songs like Pick A Bale Of Cotton and Midnight Special were packaged as a three disc album, while the blues song were issued as single discs on RCA’s budget label Bluebird. The first two tracks on the CD; Daddy I’m Coming Home To You and Shorty George, are two unissued sides from Lead Belly’s first commercial recording session which for ARC.

Credits: Bumble Bee Slim - composer; Willis Johnson - group, vocals; William Langford - group, vocals; Lead Belly - composer, guitar, primary artist, vocals; Huddie Ledbetter - composer; Alan Lomax - composer; John A. Lomax - composer; Henry Owens - group, vocals; Johnny Parth - compilation producer, producer; Ken Romanowski - liner notes; Victoria Spivey - composer; Traditional - composer; Gerhard Wessely - remastering; Arlandus Wilson - group, vocals.

Tracks: 1) Daddy I’m Coming Back To You (take 3) – Lead Belly (Huddie Ledbetter); 2) Shorty George (take 2) – Lead Belly (Huddie Ledbetter); 3) Fannin Street – Leadbelly; 4) Frankie And Albert – First Half – Leadbelly; 5) Frankie And Albert – Completion – Leadbelly; 6) De Kalb Blues – Leadbelly; 7) Looky Looky Yonder / Black Betty / Yellow Woman’s Door Bells (On A Monday) – Leadbelly; 8) The Bourgeois Blues – Leadbelly; 9) Poor Howard / Green Corn – Leadbelly; 10) The Boll Weevil – Leadbelly; 11) The Gallis Pole – Leadbelly; 12) Ain’t Goin’ Down To The Well no Mo’ / Go Down Old Hannah – Leadbelly; 13) Pick A Bale Of Cotton – Leadbelly with The Golden Gate Quartet; 14) Whoa Back, Buck – Leadbelly with The Golden Gate Quartet; 15) Midnight Special – Leadbelly with The Golden Gate Quartet; 16) Alabama Bound – Leadbelly with The Golden Gate Quartet; 17) Rock Island Line – Leadbelly with The Golden Gate Quartet; 18) Good Morning Blues – Huddie Leadbelly; 19) Leaving Blues – Huddie Leadbelly; 20) T.B. Blues – Huddie Leadbelly; 21) Red Cross Store Blues – Huddie Leadbelly; 22) Sail On, Little Girl, Sail On – Huddie Leadbelly; 23) Roberta – Huddie Leadbelly; 24) Alberta – Huddie Leadbelly; 25) I’m On My Last Go-Round – Huddie Leadbelly.