Eric Bibb and J. J. Milteau review…November 9, 2015…

ERIC BIBB AND J. J. MILTEAU

LEAD BELLY’S GOLD

LIVE AT THE SUNSET AND MORE…

GREY GOOSE–WHEN THAT TRAIN COMES ALONG/SWING LOW SWEET CHARIOT–ON A MONDAY–THE HOUSE OF THE RISING SUN–MIDNIGHT SPECIAL–BRING A LITTLE WATER, SYLVIE–WHERE DID YOU SLEEP LAST NIGHT–WHEN I GET TO DALLAS–PICK A BALE OF COTTON–GOODNIGHT, IRENE–ROCK ISLAND LINE–BOURGEOIS BLUES–CHAUFFEUR BLUES–STEWBALL–TITANIC–SWIMMIN’ IN A RIVER OF SONGS

Huddie “Lead Belly” Ledbetter was one of the most influential folk and blues artists ever recorded.  Discovered by John and Alan Lomax in the Angola Prison farm, they cut a deal with prison officials to record Ledbetter and find him gainful employment in return for parole.  The resulting recordings became the basis for the folk boom of the Sixties, and his songs have been recorded by artists as diverse as Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Creedence Clearwater Revival, and Nirvana.

Eric Bibb’s father Leon introduced Lead Belly’s music to Eric as a child, and Eric and French harmonica master Jean-Jacques (J. J.) Milteau have crafted a set of “Lead Belly’s Gold,” their latest album for Stony Plain.  It includes a live set of eleven of Lead Belly’s most-recognizable tunes, as well as five studio cuts either penned by Lead Belly or new songs by Eric and J. J. done for this tribute.  The live set was recorded at the Paris jazz venue, The Sunset, and is predominantly an acoustic affair.  They lead off with “Grey Goose,” a parable of social outcasts that still rings true today.  They also do a stark, minor-key reading of a song recorded by many regarding that infamous “House Of The Rising Sun,” with plaintive harp from J. J.

Lead Belly was known for his “prison songs,” and two of his prominent ones are represented by “On A Monday” and the iconic “Midnight Special.”  On the prison farm is likely where Lead Belly crafted the field hollers that would evolve into “Bring A Little Water, Sylvie,” and “Pick A Bale Of Cotton,” a spirited version of which appears on YouTube.  The live portion closes with two of his best-loved songs that defy genres’, “Goodnight, Irene,” and “Rock Island Line,” the latter popularized by Lonnie Donegan and Johnny Cash.

The in-studio cuts include a fine read of Lead Belly’s tale of the sinking of the Titanic, and the mythical racehorse, “Stewball,” who “never drunk water, but he always drunk wine!”  Our favorite also was done in-studio, a Lead Belly original that deals with segregation in Washington, D. C., the “Bourgeois Blues.”

Eric Bibb and J. J. Milteau effectively convey the power, passion, and far-ahead-of-his-time philosophies of Huddie Ledbetter.  “Lead Belly’s Gold” pays great tribute to a musician who was larger than life and the traditions he embodied.  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

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