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Lead Belly Sings for Children

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Album Review

A dozen of these 28 songs were first issued on the 1960 Folkways album Negro Folk Songs for Young People. But this is not so much a CD expansion of that album as a lengthy compilation of children-friendly performances from the 1940s that uses Negro Folk Songs for Young People as its core. The additional tracks were recorded by Moses Asch of Folkways in 1941-1948, and include five of the six songs released on the 1941 album Party Songs/Sings & Plays, and a previously unreleased radio broadcast of "Take This Hammer." While many of these are simple tunes that can easily be picked up by young kids for singing along to, like "Skip to My Lou" and "Blue-Tailed Fly (Jimmy Crack Corn)," a bunch of these are classic folk songs of equal appeal to all age groups. Some of them are particularly identified with Leadbelly's interpretations, such as "Rock Island Line," "John Henry," "Cotton Fields," "Midnight Special," "Pick a Bale of Cotton," and "Take this Hammer"; other familiar standards like "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" and "Sally Walker" are also aboard. As the liner notes explain, Leadbelly didn't limit the repertoire of his performances for children solely to simple tunes, also putting in blues and folk songs that you wouldn't think of as kids' tunes, like "Good Morning Blues." The result is a disc that is simply a good Leadbelly album, whether listened to by kids or others.


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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