Huddie "Leadbelly" LEDBETTER – The Definitive Leadbelly, 60th Anniversary Edition (CD+DVD Box Set) 2009

Huddie “Leadbelly” LEDBETTER –  The Definitive Leadbelly, 60th Anniversary Edition (CD+DVD Box Set) 2009
Label: Proper Box
*More Details Are in The Cover & Info*

Blues

It’s a brave move to call something `Definitive’ when the artist has recorded so much and has such a variety of styles but this box set pretty much does it. With almost 90 tracks that cover the spectrum of Leadbelly’s output taking in Blues, Cowboy songs, Folk, Work songs, Prison songs and just about anything else you can think of – there’s even a song on here of him demonstrating his dancing skills!!

The sound has obviously had a lot of time spent on it so you can hear his imperious voice and stunning musicianship and the notes explain a lot about the myth and the reality of the man. The design is well thought out and there are quite a few pictures I’d never seen before. I didn’t even know footage of Leadbelly existed so to have him performing three songs which are included on the DVD is a revelation and the little news film of him and Lomax shows what life must have been like for a Southern black man back in those days. The price of this box means that it’s great for new fans of Leadbelly as all of the classics are included as well as old fans as there’s just so much stuff that you wouldn’t find on any other release.
By  Graham Barthram.
**
Huddie `Leadbelly’ Ledbetter was born in 1888 in Louisiana and life was hard from the off. By the time he was 27 he found himself in jail and from then on until 1933, when he was discovered by musicologists John and Alan Lomax, he was in and out of jail for various crimes including murder.
The Lomaxes recorded Leadbelly extensively and when he was released they took him to New York where his work was immediately picked up by artists such as Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie and he became a darling of the left-wing.

After his death in 1949 his stature only grew with The Weavers scoring a massive hit with `Goodnight, Irene’ in the Fifties. Since then his songs have been picked up by generation after generation with Bob Dylan, Van Morrison, The Animals and many more covering his work. Most recently the Leadbelly flame has been kept alive by Nirvana whose version of `Black Girl’ was the outstanding track on their massively successful `Unplugged’ album.

On this release we hear the many facets of Leadbelly. He plays piano, accordion, dances, talks of his life and, of course, displays his masterful talents on his beloved 12-string all accompanied by that magisterial voice. With the additional rare footage, photos and interviews this set serves as the most rounded collection yet dedicated to one of the most important artists to have ever committed sound to wax.
**
Commemorating the 60th anniversary of Leadbelly’s death this compilation contains many rare and previoulsy unheard Leadbelly performances as well as classic songs that influenced everyone from Bob Dylan to Nirvana.
Includes booklet with extensive notes and rare and unseen photographs as well as Leadbelly’s FBI rapsheet issued by J. Edgar Hoover himself.

DVD disc ‘Talkin’ Leadbelly’ which includes footage from the March of Time newsreel from 1935 and Leadbelly performing three songs in colour from 1944.
**
It’s a brave move to call something `Definitive’ when the artist has recorded so much and has such a variety of styles but this box set pretty much does it. With almost 90 tracks that cover the spectrum of Leadbelly’s output taking in Blues, Cowboy songs, Folk, Work songs, Prison songs and just about anything else you can think of – there’s even a song on here of him demonstrating his dancing skills!!
The sound has obviously had a lot of time spent on it so you can hear his imperious voice and stunning musicianship and the notes explain a lot about the myth and the reality of the man. The design is well thought out and there are quite a few pictures I’d never seen before. I didn’t even know footage of Leadbelly existed so to have him performing three songs which are included on the DVD is a revelation and the little news film of him and Lomax shows what life must have been like for a Southern black man back in those days. The price of this box means that it’s great for new fans of Leadbelly as all of the classics are included as well as old fans as there’s just so much stuff that you wouldn’t find on any other release.
**
Huddie `Leadbelly’ Ledbetter was born in 1888 in Louisiana and life was hard from the off. By the time he was 27 he found himself in jail and from then on until 1933, when he was discovered by musicologists John and Alan Lomax, he was in and out of jail for various crimes including murder.
The Lomaxes recorded Leadbelly extensively and when he was released they took him to New York where his work was immediately picked up by artists such as Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie and he became a darling of the left-wing.
After his death in 1949 his stature only grew with The Weavers scoring a massive hit with `Goodnight, Irene’ in the Fifties. Since then his songs have been picked up by generation after generation with Bob Dylan, Van Morrison, The Animals and many more covering his work. Most recently the Leadbelly flame has been kept alive by Nirvana whose version of `Black Girl’ was the outstanding track on their massively successful `Unplugged’ album.
On this release we hear the many facets of Leadbelly. He plays piano, accordion, dances, talks of his life and, of course, displays his masterful talents on his beloved 12-string all accompanied by that magisterial voice. With the additional rare footage, photos and interviews this set serves as the most rounded collection yet dedicated to one of the most important artists to have ever committed sound to wax.  ”
**
It never fails that someone in the crowd points out that Huddie Ledbetter, better known as Leadbelly, caught the biggest break of his life when John and Alan Lomax, who had been traveling the country recording American folk music, walked into the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola in 1933, where Mr. Ledbetter was cooling his heels on an attempted murder rap. Somehow I don’t think it was Leadbelly who got the big break, but that the entire recorded musical heritage of the U.S. and beyond caught a colossal break.

The musician and singer Leadbelly, the man who laid down a foundation for an endless line of road rambling folk troubadours, washed-in-the-blood-of-the-lamb gospel and soul singers, cowboy crooners and juke joint wailers, not to mention just about every rock-and-roll musician who has come down the pike in the last fifty years, turned out a songbook so encompassing during his lifetime that it would be almost impossible to gauge his profound influence on music today. The only proof one needs is The Definitive Leadbelly: 60th Anniversary Edition, the special sixtieth anniversary edition box set out on Proper Records.

Containing three CDs and a DVD with interviews with musicologists and some rare Leadbelly footage, The Definitive Leadbelly: 60th Anniversary Edition is a cornucopia of sheer goodness and a must have for every blues, folk, gospel and rock devotee. Russell Beecher, who compiled and annotated the collection, offers listeners 82 tracks of Leadbelly’s best and DVD Leadbelly performances of “Grasshoppers in My Pillow,” “Black Girl,” “Goodnight Irene,” “Matchbox Blues,” “Grey Goose” “Take This Hammer” and “Pick a Bale of Cotton.” While the commentary by the musicologists was interesting, let me throw in a caution in here. There’s a section of film where Leadbelly is reenacting pleading with Alan Lomax to be “his man” that is downright cringe worthy. It isn’t that I don’t know the truth of those times for a black man – it’s simply sad to watch such an icon forced to stoop so very low.

In addition to the CDs and DVD, The Definitive Leadbelly: 60th Anniversary Edition provides a gorgeous 30-page booklet with track listings, a biography and a collection of priceless photographs of Leadbelly and of life around Shreveport (Louisiana), Dallas (Texas) and Angola’s (Louisiana)prison life. Kudos are certainly in order for designer Karin Ussher, as well as Paul Swinton and Tim Willis who are the masters of mastering.

Disc one, Good Morning Blues of The Definitive Leadbelly: 60th Anniversary Edition is chocked full of such goodies as Leadbelly’s versions of “If It Wasn’t for Dicky,” “Laura,” “Bring A Little Water, Sylvie,” “Black Girl,” “New York City” and the classic “Goodnight Irene.” This CD also offers a look into the storyteller side of Leadbelly on tracks like “Frankie & Albert (Part 1 and 2) or the powerful “Scottsboro Boys,” about the three black youths accused of assaulting a couple of white women. This disc also contains a hauntingly soulful version of “Easy Rider.”

Midnight Special, the second disc, gets even better with “Rock Island Line,” blues numbers “Roberta,” “Sweet Mary” and “Leaving Blues.” Tracks like “House of the Rising Sun,” full of down-and-out juke joint sorrow, and “C.C. Rider” and the stunning version of “Midnight Special” might be familiar to most music fans, but these tracks possess a shine all their own and put to shame some of the more popular versions. My personal favorite has to be the poignantly soulful “Grey Goose.”

Disc three, Leaving Blues, has got the goods with gospel trio “Meeting at the Building/Talking Preaching/We Shall Walk Through the Valley,” “Salty Dog,” Leadbelly’s tribute to the Titanic disaster “Titanic (Fare Thee Well)” the mournful “Ain’t Going Down to the Well No More” and blues numbers “Matchbox Blues” and “Last Leaving Blues.” This disc also contains wonderful versions of “Take this Hammer” and “Grasshoppers in My Pillow.”

Now normally when something comes out with the tag ‘definitive’ on it I get a little edgy, so I couldn’t say if this box set is the definitive last word on Mr. Ledbetter and his legacy, but I’d say this one comes damn close. There are a couple of things I wish had been included on this compilation. I wish the tracks on the CDs and some of the photographs in the booklet would have included dates and I would have liked a brief commentary by Mr. Beecher as why he sequenced the music as he did, but that’s just me.

The Definitive Leadbelly: 60th Anniversary Edition is a brilliant compilation, but then again we wouldn’t expect any less from the fine folks at Proper Records. In the end, I don’t think Leadbelly caught the lucky break when the Lomaxes strolled onto the yard at Angola– I think we did. And with The Definitive Leadbelly box set, we got lucky twice.

Note: This box set is only distributed in Europe. U.S. fans should know that this box set is only available for purchase as an import. Canadian fans should check out Amazon. All of our other friends around the globe should check Amazon, if available, or order as an import. Of course, if you have a friend traveling to Europe this summer, you could tell them you’re willing to forego the plastic miniature of the Eiffel Tower, the ridiculously floppy Basque beret and the adult-sized lederhosen if they’ll pick you up a copy of this box set.
**
Disc: 1
01. Good Morning Blues
02. If It Wasn’t For Dicky
03. Leavin’ In The Morning
04. Uncle Sam Says
05. Hitler Song
06. Laura
07. Bring A Little Water, Sylvie
08. Jim Crow Blues
09. Big Fat Woman
10. Black Girl
11. The Blood Done Signed My Name
12. I’ve A Pretty Flowers
13. Blind Lemon (Memorial Record)
14. Leadbelly’s Dance
15. Frankie & Albert – Part 1
16. Frankie & Albert – Part 2
17. In The Evenin’ When The Sun Goes Down
18. Corn Bread Rough
19. National Defence
20. Easy Rider
21. New York City
22. Little Sally Walker
23. Goodnight, Irene
24. Scottsboro Boys
25. I’m On My Last Go-Round
26. Whoa Back, Buck
27. I’m Alone Because I Love You
28. It’s Tight Like That
29. Well You Know I Had To Do It
*
Disc: 2
01. Rock Island Line
02. Roberta
03. House Of The Rising Sun
04. Nobody Knows You When You’re Down And Out
05. Fannin’ Street
06. Yellow Gal
07. C.C. Rider
08. Alabama Bound
09. Sweet Mary
10. Going Back To Mary
11. New Orleans
12. Ha, Ha, This-A-Way
13. Daddy, I’m Coming Back To You
14. Pick A Bale Of Cotton
15. Midnight Special
16. Sukey Jump
17. How Long
18. Leaving Blues
19. T.B. Blues
20. Red Cross Store
21. Sail On, Little Girl, Sail On
22. Bull Cow
23. Alberta
24. Digging My Potatoes
25. You Can’t Lose Me Cholly
26. Grey Goose
*
Disc: 3
01. Cow Cow Yicky Yea/ Out On The Western Plain
02. Noted Rider/ Big Fat Woman/Borrow Love & Go
03. John Hardy
04. Meeting At The Building/Talking Preaching/We Shall Walk Through The Valley
05. John Henry
06. Go Down Old Hannah
07. Grasshoppers In My Pillow
08. Tell Me Baby What Was Wrong With You
09. Don’t You Love Your Daddy No More
10. Stew Ball
11. Mothers Blues (Little Children Blues)
12. Salty Dog
13. Titanic (Fare Thee Well)
14. Boll Weevil
15. Take This Hammer
16. Can’t You Line ‘Em
17. Ain’t Going Down To The Well No More
18. Ain’t You Glad
19. Shout On (Honey I’m All Out & Down)
20. Birmingham Jail (Down In The Valley)
21. Bye & Bye When The Morning Comes
22. Po Howard
23. Matchbox Blues
24. Pigmeat
25. Green Corn
26. Backwater Blues
27. The Last ‘Leaving Blues’
*
Disc: 4
AVI: Featuring interviews with musicologists and rare footage of Leadbelly performing live

01.Grasshoppers In My Pillow
02.Black Girl
03.Goodnight, Irene
04.Matchbox Blues
05.Grey Goose
06.Take This Hammer
07.Pick A Bale Of Cotton
**


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