Saturday, March 22, 2008


Uncle Tupelo: John Hardy


Last week we heard the Carter Family version. Closing out this week an excellent version by Uncle Tupelo from the seminal alt-country album No Depression. Leadbelly gets the writing credit on this disc, but it seems possible that this traditional number predates Leadbelly. The murderer whose story inspired the song was hung in 1894 when Leadbelly was only six years old.


Friday, March 21, 2008


Tom Jones: Black Betty


Not much to say about this one. You probably love it or hate it. But, fear not, there are eight more versions of Black Betty over at the Nine Bullets blog, including the original and a good one by Ministry. There's bound to be one you like there.

"The is T.J. deadicating a song to Lead Belly! . . . Bam-a-Lam!"


Thursday, March 20, 2008


Big Joe Turner: Midnight Special Train


Big Joe Turner from Kansas City is a member of both The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and The Blues Hall of Fame. His style bridges the gap between Leadbelly's blues and the early rockers like Elvis Presley and Bill Haley.

A highlight is the rhyming of "Santa Fe" with "me."


Wednesday, March 19, 2008


Lonnie Donegan: Rock Island Line


Lonnie Donegan was the undisputed King of the British skiffle revival. According to Wikipedia (our favorite source) "Skiffle is a type of folk music with a jazz and blues influence, usually using homemade or improvised instruments such as the washboard, tea chest bass, kazoo, cigar-box fiddle, musical saw, comb and paper, and so forth, as well as more conventional instruments such as acoustic guitar and banjo. Skiffle and jug band music are closely related. Skiffle was particularly popular in Britain in the 1950s and 1960s."

Two important bands got their start during the British skiffle revival. The Beatles evolved from an unkown skiffle group called the Quarrymen. Britain's loudest band, Spinal Tap, started as a skiffle group called The Lovely Lads.


Tuesday, March 18, 2008


Creedence Clearwater Revival: Cotton Fields


This one's kind of obvious. Almost went with the Beach Boys version, but I've always loved this CCR version, so that's what you get.

"When those cotton balls get rotten, you can't pick very much cotton..."


Monday, March 17, 2008


X: Dancing With Tears In My Eyes


This is a Tin Pan Alley song from 1930 that Leadbelly performed on his Last Sessions album. In the liner notes to Under A Big Black Sun, X quotes Leadbelly's remarks from the Last Sessions:

"I didn't make this myself, but I'm gonna do it. 'Twas a man he had a pretty wife ... And she went and losed her mind about her husband. We'd got out & play for the insane asylum people ... & they would dance. She was there and her husband would go and sing to her. And 2 weeks after he sang this song, she come back to her senses and they got back together. That's to show how music can bring you back ... If you ain't too far gone."