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Almeda Riddle

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One would be hard pressed to track down recorded examples of Almeda Riddle's singing, but the hunt would be well worth it since she possessed one of the strongest voices ever put to wax. Born in 1898, Riddle spent her entire life in rural Arkansas, where she learned an extensive repertoire of ballads, traditional religious songs, and children's songs from her father, a hard working lumber salesman who was a descendant of the infamous James Gang. In addition to selling timber, J.L. James also worked as a singing teacher, benefiting his daughter's talent greatly. Riddle's voice grew into a strong and powerful instrument, and she often sang for friends and family. It's unlikely that the world at large would have ever heard her voice had Riddle not been discovered by folklorist Alan Lomax on one of his many trips to the rural South in the late ‘50s. On the ensuing Atlantic Records release, Southern Folk Heritage Series, Riddle's powerful voice and unique versions of traditional songs made her a standout and led her to a solo album on the Vanguard label in 1966. In the ‘70s, Riddle recorded two successive albums for Rounder Records and performed at many fairs and folk festivals until her death. ~ Steve Kurutz

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