Lead Belly

Complete Recorded Works, Vol. 6 (1947)

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The Austrian reissue label Document Records released the first five volumes of its series of the commercial recordings of Leadbelly in chronological order in 1994, taking the story up to 1946. Three years later comes the sixth volume, covering recordings made in 1947. Except for the final, barely audible live recording of "Eagle Rock Rag" made on September 6, 1947, these tracks were cut for record company owner Moses Asch (soon to found Folkways), with the discographical information incomplete. Most of them are re-recordings of songs Leadbelly recorded for Asch or another label earlier, which may indicate that, at this relatively late point in his career, he had committed most of his repertoire to disc and was repeating himself or, as annotator Ken Romanowski and others have suggested, the singer may have been recutting songs at Asch's behest because Asch had lost control of the masters to the earlier versions when he went bankrupt and he wanted replacements. In any case, the result is that this album presents good versions of many Leadbelly favorites including "Gray Goose," "Pick a Bale of Cotton" (with backup vocals by the Oleander Singers), "Bring Me a Little Water Silvy (Sylvie)" (a duet with Anna Graham), "Irene, Good Night" (actually a copy of the earlier version for Asch, except that it fades out early), "Rock Island Line," and "The Gallis Pole." Among the few newly recorded songs are "Laura" and "Sukey Jump (Win' Jammer)." Also notable is "If It Wasn't for Dicky," the tune of which was borrowed by the Weavers for their song "Kisses Sweeter Than Wine." Although the singer was only two years away from his death due to the paralyzing effects of Lou Gehrig's disease, he shows no evidence of its onset here, performing in his usual enthusiastic manner and even pausing to explain the contexts of his work and gospel songs. The sound quality is generally good, although some tracks have audible surface noise.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 1:24
2 1:14
3 1:41
4 2:16
5 2:20
6 1:11
7 1:26
8 1:45
9 1:36
10 0:59
11
1:03
12 1:21
13 1:14
14 1:53
15
2:09
16 1:28
17
1:07
18 2:09
19 2:20
20
1:41
21 2:13
22 2:11
23 1:28
24 1:07
25 2:24
26 1:30
27 2:18
28 2:52
29
2:57
30 2:12
31 2:46
32 3:02
33 3:18
34 2:51
35 4:18
36 2:28
37
3:40
38 1:36
blue highlight denotes track pick