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African-American Folk Rhythms

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Album Review

Although Ella Jenkins' records were in large part intended for educational use, collections such as this one also endure as strong folk music on its own merits. Frequently accompanied by the Goodwill Spiritual Choir of the Monumental Baptist Church in Chicago, these are strong and committed renditions of African-American folk songs. Plenty of these tunes are well known by both folk fans and the general public, and plenty of listeners may well have heard "Wade in the Water" (the album's standout), "Old Time Religion," "Hammer Song," and "Cotton-Eyed Joe" for the first time here. While the call-and-response interplay between Jenkins and the choir is good, she could also be effective on solo numbers like "Who's Gonna Be Your Man?," on which the only backing to her voice is supplied by minimal percussion that sounds like a stick and hollow drum being tapped. There's also a version of "No More Auction Block," sung by Bob Dylan in the early '60s (although he may have learned it from Odetta's rendition); its melody was adapted for Dylan's "Blowin' in the Wind."


Born: 06 August 1924 in St. Louis, MO

Genre: Children's Music

Years Active: '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

From virtually the outset of her folksinging career, Ella Jenkins stood at the forefront of children's music, establishing herself as one of the few musicians in the genre whose charms extended beyond her young target audience into the realm of adults and educators. Born in St. Louis but raised in Chicago, Jenkins began singing professionally in 1956. Over the course of books, videos, and numerous albums, she educated children about everything from reading to geography to dance, and over time she...
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African-American Folk Rhythms, Ella Jenkins
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