Leroy Carr

Complete Recorded Works, Vol. 6 (1934-1935)

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Some 60 years after his passing, Leroy Carr's complete issued recordings were chronologically compiled and released on compact disc by Document Records, Ltd. The sixth and last installment in that exhaustively complete series picks up the trail on December 17, 1934, and follows his remaining Vocalion recordings with a spate of Bluebirds waxed on February 25, 1935. Almost every song heard on this collection moves slowly and deliberately, as if to support an extra load of Weltschmerz. Although "Bread Baker" is a robustly hedonistic hymn to physical pleasures, "It's Too Short" cooks like a boogie, and "Just a Rag" is upbeat, throughout most of this collection Carr's subject matter is far from uplifting. "Tight Time Blues" is about abject poverty; "Rocks in My Bed" (the inspiration for one of Duke Ellington's greatest laments) describes the ordeal of insomnia; "Arlena" seems to convey Carr's fear of being abandoned; and "Longing for My Sugar" and "When the Sun Goes Down" are studies in heartache and loneliness. Grimmer still is "Suicide Blues," with its description of brains being blown out of his skull with a gun fired by his own hand. The chilliest title of all is "Six Cold Feet in the Ground," an unmistakable premonition of his own impending demise. During the last months of his short life, Leroy Carr was not at all well. Years of heavy alcohol consumption combined with a case of what appears to have been tuberculosis wore him down and finished him off somewhat abruptly, for on April 29, 1935, 30-year-old Leroy Carr checked out far ahead of schedule in Indianapolis, the town where he had made his first record with guitarist Scrapper Blackwell back in 1928.

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