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Music Reviews

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.

?5? Royales, The ?Dedicated To You? [Sing (King)] (33 rpm)

Hunter Gatherer   5/22/2005   12-inch, Blues

The ‘5? Royales, an R&B group originally from Winston-Salem, North Carolina, recorded these 12 songs while signed to King Records. This is a bootleg replica put out by ‘The Official Record Company? of Denmark back in 1988. The King label is covered up with a made-up ‘Sing? label.

The ‘5? Royales started out as a gospel group called The Royal Sons Quintet but changed names and switched to a more secular doo-wop/jump blues sound while signed to Apollo Records and then to a heavier R&B sound while at King Records. Throughout their career the strong gospel influence is always present.

This record presents The ‘5? Royales at the peak of their powers. This is mainly due to Lowman Pauling‘s excellent songwriting and guitar playing combined with the group’s effortless harmonizing. During these later recording sessions for King, Mr. Pauling really started letting loose on his Les Paul. Check out the guitar on Think and Messin’ Up as well as the call-and-response with John Tanner‘s vocals on Say It.

Labelmate James Brown had a hit with Think in 1960, and The Shirelles and The Mamas and Papas had a hit with Dedicated To The One I Love. Check out the originals.
–Hunter Gatherer

Oakland Interfaith Gospel Chor – “Great Day ” – [Self Produce]

David Richoux   1/16/2005   Blues, CD

This recording of gospel music goes directly back to the roots of pre and post slavery days 150 years ago. Even without the organ, drums, guitar and bass they normally use this award winning Oakland choir still is powerful and beautiful with classic arrangements of “Negro” Spirituals. Some you may recognize (Tracks 2, 8, 12,16) and many more are obscure but still worth a listen. Some are up and joyous, others are way down and soulful. You will hear some elements that helped lead to the development of blues and jazz but these works also stand on their own merit as a great American artform. Come on and Wade in the Water, Children! *review by David Richoux

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