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Good God, why doesn't that man yodel and be done with it? - A woman in the audience commenting on Peetie Wheatstraw's signature "ooh, well well", recounted by Teddy Darby, quoted in Paul Garon's The Devil's Son-In-Law

Author Topic: Leadbelly  (Read 16272 times)

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Offline frankie

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Leadbelly
« on: August 16, 2004, 09:50:35 AM »
Perhaps it should be in another thread, but what are folks favorite Leadbelly CDs? I have a couple basic compilations (the one on Columbia and some other thing, plus the private party recording from 1948). I seem to recall a thumbs up for the later Library of Congress material.

I'm not sure that I've heard one CD in particular that I'd call my favorite.? I have the Rounder releases of the LoC material.? It's not complete, but it's great.? A lot of incredible material - sheesh, what a voice.? Funny thing about LB - he seems to really dig 'F' position - he plays Roberta and Midnight Special out of F on the LoC recordings - later he played it out of D and I think the arrangement isn't quite as interesting.? Probably should have sprung for the complete LoC on Document...? oh, well.? I also have Last Sessions - playing and singing is ok to good throughout, but the audio quality is outstanding, plus you get to hear him talk a lot.? One big hole in my fledgling LB collection (the guy made a LOT of records!) is from the period of time that he did a bunch of recordings for Moe Asch.? Those are on the Leadbelly Legacy volumes put out by Smithsonian/Folkways.? Ari's favorite is the session with the Golden Gate Singers.? Haven't heard that one yet, though.

You'd probably enjoy reading The Life and Legend of Leadbelly by Charles Wolfe and Kip Lornell.? Lots of de-mystifying, well-written...? read it in about a day and a half...? couldn't put it down!

Frank, have you heard Alvin Youngblood Hart do this on Down In the Alley?? He does a really nice version too, alvinized but very belly.

Haven't heard it - yet!
« Last Edit: April 18, 2005, 04:30:26 AM by Johnm »

Offline Montgomery

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Re: Leadbelly
« Reply #1 on: August 16, 2004, 10:16:56 AM »
Agree about the LoC stuff, it's my favorite of his.  There's some good stuff on the Last Session CDs, I would consider it an important document if not his best musical moment.  I love that Private Party release on Document; it's not a great performance, but the whole idea of it is pretty bizarre.  The duet of Goodnight Irene with a child is pretty heartbreaking.

Offline jed

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Re: Leadbelly
« Reply #2 on: August 16, 2004, 11:02:00 AM »
A short clip of Leadbelly performing "Jump Down Turn Around (Pick a Bale of Cotton)" has been circulating for many years, and shows up in at least one blues documentary (Bluesland?).  It's a pretty tame, obviously staged, performance, but it's a live look at Leadbelly's singing and playing.

Also, Gordon Parks Sr ("Shaft") made a "Leadbelly" drama-less-mentary in 1976.  Haven't seen it.  A review by Delta Snakester Al Handa can be found here:  http://www.netmagic.net/~snake/feature/movies.htm.

Cheers,
Jed
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Offline uncle bud

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Re: Leadbelly
« Reply #3 on: August 16, 2004, 11:15:50 AM »
A short clip of Leadbelly performing "Jump Down Turn Around (Pick a Bale of Cotton)" has been circulating for many years, and shows up in at least one blues documentary (Bluesland?).  It's a pretty tame, obviously staged, performance, but it's a live look at Leadbelly's singing and playing.

There are some others as well, which are on some of the video material offered through Stefan Grossman. Take This Hammer is one of the tunes. Can't recall the others.

Quote
Also, Gordon Parks Sr ("Shaft") made a "Leadbelly" drama-less-mentary in 1976.  Haven't seen it.  A review by Delta Snakester Al Handa can be found here:  http://www.netmagic.net/~snake/feature/movies.htm.

I had taped this off late night TV at some point. It wasn't bad actually. Must see if I still have it.

Offline frankie

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Re: Leadbelly
« Reply #4 on: August 16, 2004, 12:32:48 PM »
A short clip of Leadbelly performing "Jump Down Turn Around (Pick a Bale of Cotton)" has been circulating for many years, and shows up in at least one blues documentary.

There are some others as well, which are on some of the video material offered through Stefan Grossman. Take This Hammer is one of the tunes. Can't recall the others.

There are a couple of short clips of Goodnight Irene which look like they were filmed at a party and a staged, yet somehow totally surreal film of him playing The Grey Goose.? The staged stuff was pieced together almost frame-by-frame by Pete Seeger - given that, I think the results are damn near amazing and clearly convey Leadbelly's power as a performer...? well worth seeking out.? What a treat to be able to see Leadbelly in action, even if only briefly.?
« Last Edit: April 18, 2005, 04:32:16 AM by Johnm »

Offline waxwing

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Re: Leadbelly
« Reply #5 on: August 16, 2004, 01:13:34 PM »
There are a couple of short clips of Goodnight Irene which look like they were filmed at a party and a staged
If you mean the clip where his hair is dyed black, he is singing to his, much younger, (hence his dyed hair) bride at their wedding party. It seems an awkward moment at the end of the song when he grabs her roughly by the jaw to make her smile for the camera?
I think there are a couple other clips on Harry Lewman's instructional video, but I can't remember which at the moment. Definitely  "Pick a Bale of Cotton". Also in Harry's transcription book, No Stranger to the Blues, he references a Columbia recording, King of the 12-String Guitar, which I tried to get Quimper to order but they apparently lost my order or just took it as a suggestion, so I wasn't able to get it, or several others, at PT. Columbia seems to have the early ARC sessions from 1935 on various CDs. You might check Harry's site for lots of info. From there I just linked toThe Leadbelly Web which has the discography from the Lornell book and a list of CDs (from which I notice King of the 12-String Guitar is now a Sony/Legacy issue). Maybe we ought to invite Harry to join the discussions here?
All for now,
Barbecue John C.
« Last Edit: August 16, 2004, 02:12:44 PM by waxwing »
"People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it."
George Bernard Shaw

“Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't after you.”
Joseph Heller, Catch-22

http://www.youtube.com/user/WaxwingJohn
https://www.facebook.com/WaxwingJohn

Offline frankie

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Re: Leadbelly
« Reply #6 on: August 16, 2004, 02:33:16 PM »
If you mean the clip where his hair is dyed black, he is singing to his, much younger, (hence his dyed hair) bride at their wedding party. It seems an awkward moment at the end of the song when he grabs her roughly by the jaw to make her smile for the camera?

Martha was undoubtedly a *very* patient woman.? Volume 1 of Last Sessions is all acapella...? at one point Martha tries tentatively singing a tune that I know as Washington Phillips' "What Are They Doing in Heaven Today?", listed on the CD as "I Am Thinking of a Friend".? LB starts kinda encouraging her...? then starts telling her she's "holding back".? I suppose he thought he was being supportive, but it's clear that Martha resents his intrusion & criticism and she clams up.? LB gets apologetic, but it's too late, the moment is gone.? Listening to it, I really feel for Martha, who attempts to maintain her composure & dignity even though she must have felt pretty uncomfortable.? As a more than occasional dumbass spouse with a habit of rectal-cranial inversion, I can easily put myself in LB's shoes, but man...? I wouldn't ever want a moment like that immortalized, although I'm sure Kim would like the evidence!? It would definitely make a splendid entry into a "box of dread" - you know...? those shoeboxes in the closet with pictures & maybe (gasp) cassettes, or even worse, MOVIES of you when you were younger and, to put it gently, less wise...

Maybe we ought to invite Harry to join the discussions here?

The more, the merrier...
« Last Edit: April 18, 2005, 04:34:17 AM by Johnm »

Offline Montgomery

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Re: Leadbelly
« Reply #7 on: August 16, 2004, 08:01:16 PM »
In my opinion, Gordon Parks' "Leadbelly" film is a travesty, just a terrible film in every conceivable way.? Most annoyingly, Leadbelly's music is not featured at all.? Instead, we hear some guy from the 70s with a just a tiny modicum of Leadbelly's talent and not even a hint of Leadbelly's sound or style, playing songs that Leadbelly recorded.? While I've heard many people argue for the re-recording of Leadbelly's songs for the purposes of the film (due to the improved sound quality of the re-recordings), anyone watching the movie who has never heard Leadbelly is bound to wonder why they bothered making a film about this unremarkable musician.? Oh, how I dread the upcoming Robert Johnson film (I should note that I am not a fan of biopics; Peter Watkins brilliant "Edvard Munch" being the only exception I can think of).
« Last Edit: April 18, 2005, 04:35:41 AM by Johnm »

Offline uncle bud

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Re: Leadbelly
« Reply #8 on: August 17, 2004, 08:45:55 AM »
... King of the 12-String Guitar, which I tried to get Quimper to order but they apparently lost my order or just took it as a suggestion, so I wasn't able to get it, or several others, at PT. Columbia seems to have the early ARC sessions from 1935 on various CDs.

Wax, just FYI, King of the 12-String is now on the Juke if you want to check it out.

Offline frankie

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Re: Leadbelly
« Reply #9 on: August 17, 2004, 09:18:55 AM »
Good call on Shorty George, UB - great song!? There's a 12-string explosion on the juke right now...? I req'd a bunch of Leadbelly, too, then the juke spontaneously followed up with Willie Baker.? Weird!

That durned request limit...? quick - somebody request "Billy Goat Blues" by John Byrd!?
« Last Edit: April 18, 2005, 04:36:51 AM by Johnm »

Offline uncle bud

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Re: Leadbelly
« Reply #10 on: August 17, 2004, 09:24:34 AM »
Good call on Shorty George, UB - great song!  There's a 12-string explosion on the juke right now...  I req'd a bunch of Leadbelly, too, then the juke spontaneously followed up with Willie Baker.  Weird!

That durned request limit...  quick - somebody request "Billy Goat Blues" by John Byrd!  <g>

AH, that was you on the Leadbelly button. Thought it was Waxy. :)  Shorty George is a fun one. A little Lemony at times.

Offline waxwing

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Re: Leadbelly
« Reply #11 on: August 17, 2004, 09:44:38 AM »
It was almost me. Shorty George is the tune I really wanted to hear and I tuned in right after it played. Dang! I'll just have to request it again when I get back from the gym. Thanks for the tip on King of the 12-string Guitar bein' on the juke UB.
All for now.
Barbecue John C.
"People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it."
George Bernard Shaw

“Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't after you.”
Joseph Heller, Catch-22

http://www.youtube.com/user/WaxwingJohn
https://www.facebook.com/WaxwingJohn

Offline frankie

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Re: Leadbelly
« Reply #12 on: August 17, 2004, 12:23:43 PM »
AH, that was you on the Leadbelly button.

Even though it seems like I've got a lot of Leadbelly to sift through, I'm amazed by how much I haven't heard yet.  The guy was a really deep well.  Is there any of his unaccompanied singing on "King of the 12-String"?  If not, that's kind of a shame...  Go Down Old Hannah...  my oh my...

Offline uncle bud

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Re: Leadbelly
« Reply #13 on: August 17, 2004, 07:22:56 PM »
No, there's no unaccompanied vocal on King of the 12 string. I think I have some elsewhere, will have to dig it up. There may be some on the private party recording but I can't remember.

HarryL

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Re: Leadbelly
« Reply #14 on: August 17, 2004, 07:37:34 PM »
Thanks waxwing for letting me know about this forum and thread. ?

As to favorite Lead Belly recordings: ?I think my favorite is a Folkways compilation that was titled: "Leadbelly Sings Folk Songs". ?It was songs that Asch probably picked from a wide variety of recordings he had done. ?Some songs had been recorded as an ensemble with Woody Guthrie, Cisco Huston. ?Others were duos with Leadbelly and Sonny Terry. ?The record also included the solo hollers of Linin Track and Good-Good-Good.?With a few modifications, it is still in print on the Smithsonian/Folkways label as the same title.

I have noticed that the favorite Lead Belly recording of many people is the very first one they heard.?If you have never heard his voice or style, it can make a very strong first impression.

The interplay of Martha and Lead Belly that was previously discussed reminded me of a very odd tape of my own recordings. ?On a Valentine's day in 1978, when I was married and 28 years old, my wife walked into my little studio while I was recording. ?She demanded to know the meaning of a note she found crumpled up in the waste basket. ?

What she was doing going through the wastebasket trash I never did find out. ?The note said: ?I will be your concubine if you will be my valentine". ?It was not in my handwriting or hers. ?At the time there was a very cute young lady living across the hall from us. ?I am being totally honest when I say I never fooled around or even made a pass at her, but I would have had I not been married. ?

My wife demanded to know the details of the note. ?I told her with total honesty that I had no idea where the note came from or who wrote it. ?There had been a cleaning lady in our home that day, and I suggested that it may have been hers or she may have found it in the hall. ?I really did not know. ?My wife was not the totally trusting kind, and she kept up her questioning until she realized my story was not going to change. ?

I have always wondered myself where the note came from, hoping that it had been the cute lady across the hall. ?Anyhow.. I did not have the presence of mind to turn off the recorder when my wife walked in, so I have the entire exchange recorded for all posterity. ?

As to Shorty George: ?I have always felt that it was not one of Lead Belly's best. ?The melody is too mechanical feeling for me, but the guitar part is really fun to play. ?I transcribed it for the Lead Belly songbook that was published by TRO/Folkways Recordings. ?

Harry
« Last Edit: April 18, 2005, 04:40:27 AM by Johnm »

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