Album Review

Lead Belly – “Bridging Leadbelly ” – [Rounder Records]

Rococo   7/5/2005   Blues, CD

Between 1935 and his death in 1949, Huddie Ledbetter (aka Lead Belly) had one of the most prolific recording and performing careers of any rural Southern bluesman. So it is not too surprising that the intrepid folks at Rounder have managed to uncover some previously-unreleased recordings from this American legend. The first session here (tracks 1-12), recorded in 1938 for the BBC in New York City, features many of Leadbelly’s standards in remarkably clean studio recordings. Of particular note are the a cappella renditions (tracks 3, 4, 5, 9) and the ONLY known recording of Leadbelly yodelling (track 2). The second session (tracks 13-17), dating from 1946, was recorded with a wire recorder at a party in Salt Lake City. These tracks are of significantly inferior sound quality but successfully capture Leadbelly’s relaxed delivery and his interaction with the live audience. Positioned back-to-back, these two “audio snapshots” create a third portrait of Lead Belly as an artist that was continually refining his craft.

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