Alan Lomax

Black Texicans: Balladeers & Songsters

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In the 1930s, John Lomax and his son Alan made field recordings of numerous black Texan folk musicians, often in penitentiaries or on farms. This has 29 performances from 1933-1940, most of them previously unreleased. It reflects various aspects of black Texas repertoire, particularly cowboy songs (Texas had a higher percentage of black cowboys than other regions did), but also some blues, work songs, and tunes identified with the songster and minstrel traditions, performed a cappella or with guitar and harmonica accompaniment. Leadbelly is the only famous name here (with just one track, "Western Cowboy"), and several of the selections are well-known staples of American folk music, like "Jack of Diamonds," "Pick a Bale of Cotton," "Boll Weevil," and "Little Liza Jane." There's a little blues here, notably by Pete Harris, who plays good slide guitar on "Little Liza Jane." But as a whole it, like numerous other pre-World War II recordings, provides evidence that there were fewer boundaries between black and white repertoires than is often supposed. Some of the highlights on this interesting anthology of a sector of vintage American folk music include the a cappella rendition of "My Pretty Little Yellow Gal" (by Lightnin' Washington and group), with its laughing choruses; Butter Boy's "Old Aunt Dinah," a nasal chant that is a distant antecedent of rap; and Ace Johnson's vigorous harmonica on "Rabbit in the Garden."

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1
1:13
2
1:06
3
feat: Pete Harris
1:02
4
feat: Lead Belly
3:30
5
2:09
6
2:15
7
feat: Pete Harris
2:06
8
feat: Pete Harris
1:12
9
3:13
10
1:56
11
feat: Mose Platt
4:24
12
1:22
13
feat: Pete Harris
2:13
14
feat: Smith Casey
2:06
15
2:36
16
feat: Ace Johnson
2:53
17
2:20
18
1:55
19
1:00
20
1:47
21
0:42
22
1:54
23
1:50
24
1:41
25
2:36
26
feat: Don Mooney
1:02
27
1:29
28
3:07
29
2:00
blue highlight denotes track pick