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The Leadbelly Project – A Hommage to Huddie Ledbetter

Self release 2010

9 tracks; 47.21 minutes

This is a very different album! The two individuals involved are James O Belcher (voice) and Poembeat who plays all instruments (guitars, piano, synth drums, bass, etc). The website gives little information but appears to be based in Germany.

The Project takes nine Leadbelly songs and recreates them in what the authors call “reloaded in a modern way”. In essence the album consists of James O intoning rather than singing the lyrics over repetitive, sometimes almost hypnotic rhythms. Most of the songs are also played at very different pace to the well known versions: for instance “Midnight Special” is presented at funereal pace while “Bourgeois Blues” has a frenetic background with a nod to hip hop beats.

“Bring me lil water Silvy” has a soundtrack that sounds almost like an old 78 recording of a jazz band in New Orleans and is again different to the other tracks. “Green Corn”’s vocal is so low that one has to think of the late Barry White! One of Leadbelly’s best known tunes is “Gallowspole”, whether we know it from Led Zeppelin or more traditional versions. Here it appears under the title “Gallis Po’” but was a major disappointment, lacking the drama of most versions.

I am not sure what the potential market for this album is but it was not for me. I would have liked to appreciate it more, as great artists like Huddie Ledbetter should be remembered, but this Project did not work for me. Perhaps it will for others.

Reviewer John Mitchell is a blues enthusiast based in the UK. He also travels to the States most years to see live blues music. He went on his first Legendary Blues Cruise in January 2010 and had such a good time he will be back in 2011!

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