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Last Sessions

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Album Review

Last Sessions! contains 88 of the 96 or so songs Leadbelly recorded between September 27 and November 5 at Frederick Ramsey, Jr.'s apartment in 1948, recordings that would turn out to be — save for a live show later that November — his last, and the only ones he ever preserved on magnetic tape. The tape medium allowed for between-song comments by the singer, and adds to the intimacy of these sessions, which feature a truly remarkable range of folk pieces, from spirituals, work songs, field hollers, ballads, children's songs, and a scattering of blues. Leadbelly apparently forgot to bring a guitar to one of these casual recording dates, so there is an unusual amount of unaccompanied singing here, which isn't a problem, really, and only further illustrates Leadbelly's complete familiarity with his large repertoire (he is rumored to have known well over a thousand songs). Smithsonian Folkways released the complete recordings from the Ramsey sessions as a four-disc box set called Leadbelly's Last Sessions in 1994, and while this slightly truncated three-disc version from Comet Records is fine, there is really no reason not to just get the Smithsonian Folkways set.


Born: 20 January 1888 in Mooringsport, LA

Genre: Blues

Years Active: '10s, '20s, '30s, '40s

Huddie Ledbetter, known as Lead Belly, was a unique figure in the American popular music of the 20th century. Ultimately, he was best remembered for a body of songs that he discovered, adapted, or wrote, including "Goodnight, Irene," "Rock Island Line," "The Midnight Special," and "Cotton Fields." But he was also an early example of a folksinger whose background had brought him into direct contact with the oral tradition by which folk music was handed down, a tradition that, by the early years of...
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