Nobody Knows the Trouble I've Seen: The Library of Congress Recordings, Vol. 5

Nobody Knows the Trouble I've Seen: The Library of Congress Recordings, Vol. 5

by Lead BellyLead Belly


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Lead Belly recorded a prodigious amount of music for Folkways, Stinson, and the Library of Congress between the time of his release from Angola State Prison in 1934 to his death from Lou Gehrig's disease in 1949. While anyone unfamiliar with the rougher edges of earlier folk recordings will prefer the recordings he made in the '40s for Folkway, hardcore fans prefer the energy of the Library of Congress recordings. These latter fans argue that these recordings come closer to capturing the "true" Lead Belly before he polished his sound for urban audiences. The tracks on Nobody Knows the Trouble I've Seen were recorded between 1939 and 1943, and the sound quality reminds one more of field recordings than a studio effort. While Lead Belly's enunciation of the lyrics isn't always clear, he performs well-worn pieces like "Rock Island Line" with an urgency -- an edge -- that would be absent from later renditions. It's also interesting how this song and pieces like "Little John Henry" are performed a cappella and interspaced with dialog. While popular fare from Tin Pan Alley occasionally showed up in Lead Belly's repertoire, these work, spiritual, and other folk songs clearly have older origins, thus offering a glimpse at "uncontaminated" traditional music. The quality of this set is also highlighted by the inclusion of a great deal of material unavailable on other collections.

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