The Brits, in at least as far as the blues is concerned, have always been our archivists. With a few exceptions in the ’60s, including John Hammond, Butterfield and Bloomfield, Taj Mahal, and a select few equally articulate (but lesser-known), it wasn’t until the ’80s and the re-emergence of the West Coast and Texas and Gulf Coast schools that we really rejoined the blues roots party. It took perhaps a number of British invasions to hand back to the USA what we at least take for granted.
It comes as no surprise that Chris Barber disciple Long John Baldry, would choose Leadbelly as a vehicle to whom he would repay a musical debt. That Baldry would choose an artist so well documented will certainly invite comparisons, and perhaps give rise to the question, what would be the need for this transplanted Canadians interpretations? This effort is obviously a labor of love from someone who’s musical career has been significantly influenced by Huddie. Attention to detail is a big reason for this CDs attraction.
Baldry does a laudable job on this Stoney Plain effort, attaining the field recording ambience in a context that was certainly intended. One doesn’t need to read the liner notes to realize Bill Broonzy and Huddie Leadbetter were certainly strong influences on the early British interpreters. Young enthusiasts that included Alexis Corner, Lonnie Donegan, John Mayall, and even Page and Plant have recognized the inspirational credentials that those two American artists wielded.
This release represents one man’s tribute to an artist he loves and respects, and the affection comes shining through.
This article originally appeared in VG‘s Aug. ’02 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.