(back) - Blues on Stage - Remembering Leadbelly CD Review
Leadbelly was one of the foundational stones upon which the Blues was born. As this exquisite tribute reminds us, however, Huddie Ledbetter was more than just a Bluesman. He sang and composed material that was relatively far a field, as well, mostly notable the folk standard 'Good Night Irene', conspicuously absent here. Long John Baldry has a voice and demeanor well suited to the material. Sometimes as gruff as Tom Waits, he's an expressive and passionate singer.

From the opening 'Lining Track', which inevitably reminds of Taj Mahal's version 30 years ago, he sets the tone. His version of 'Gallow's Pole', on which he is joined by fiddler Jesse Zubot and vocalist Kathi McDonald, is as fiery as I've ever heard and the version of 'Midnight Special' is a wonderful acoustic version that stands next to any other. 'Rock Island Line' is done in a pretty straight ahead manner, rather than the skiffle style popularized by Lonnie Donegan. 'Good Morning Blues', opens with a scratchy recording of Leadbelly's version before segueing into Baldry's superb take with harmonica player Butch Coulter. 'Birmingham Jail' has a country waltz feel, 'We're in the Same Boat Brother' is done in a hootenanny style and 'John Hardy' benefits from John Lee Sanders' harmonium. He also does wonderful versions of 'Diggin' My Potatoes' and 'Mary Don't You Weep'. by Mark E. Gallo - BOS


BLUES REVUE - LONG JOHN BALDRY - Remembering Leadbelly - Huddie Ledbetter and Long John Baldry don't have a lot in common. One is tall, white, and willowy, while the other was short, black, and stout. One was an ex-con, accused of attempted murder, while the other has...well, murdered the odd cover tune. One is dead and one's still doing nicely, thank you. Leadbelly was the first black musician adopted by a white audience, while Baldry first emerged from Folk, Pop, and R&B circles. Baldry has long been in awe of the work songs that helped the slaves endure hard labor. Who can forget his powerful treatment of Ledbetter's 'Black Girl' from 1971's It Ain't Easy, sung in duet with the like-voiced Maggie Bell? Sixteen tracks range from the simplistic prison song 'Lining Track' accompanied only by percussion, to the full-blown hymnal 'Oh Mary Don't You Weep,' with assistance from National Steel guitar, finger cymbals, and Sybel Thrasher's lush background vocals. Baldry's 12-string highlights the familiar 'Gallows Pole,' anchored by the aggressive fiddling of Jesse Zubot and given an almost Celtic feel by the slick ensemble. 'Take This Hammer,' one of the album's best tracks and some of the best Baldry in years. Another highlight is Baldry's take on 'John Hardy,' his voice nicely complemented by a 1865 pump organ and harmonium accompaniment - a peculiar treatment that makes for one of the disc's most poignant moments. 'Good Morning Blues' begins with a primitive tape Baldry made in '58 featuring a scratchy lead vocal and guitar; when it gives way to a modern recording, it nicely sums up this entire exercise. A worthy tribute. by ERIC THOM - Blues Revue

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