BLUES REVUE - LONG JOHN BALDRY - Remembering Leadbelly - Stony Plain Records
Huddie Ledbetter
and Long John Baldry don't have a lot in common. One is tall, white, and willowy, while the other was short, black, and stout. One was an ex-con, accused of attempted murder, while the other has ... well, murdered the odd cover tune. One is dead and one's still doing nicely, thank you. Leadbelly was the first black musician adopted by a white audience, while Baldry first emerged from Folk, Pop, and R&B circles. Baldry has long been in awe of the work songs that helped the slaves endure hard labor: Who can forget his powerful treatment of Ledbetter's 'Black Girl' from 1971's It Ain't Easy, sung in duet with the like-voiced Maggie Bell?

While Baldry's dry croak of a voice may be an acquired taste, it's in fine form for this celebration of his hero. Sixteen tracks range from the simplistic prison song 'Lining Track' accompanied only by percussion, to the full-blown hymnal 'Oh Mary Don't You Weep,' with assistance from National Steel guitar, finger cymbals, and Sybel Thrasher's lush background vocals. Baldry's 12-string highlights the familiar 'Gallows Pole,' anchored by the aggressive fiddling of Jesse Zubot and given an almost Celtic feel by the slick ensemble. 'Midnight Special' with its jagged ragtime treatment and unconvincing lead, doesn't fare as well, but it's redeemed by 'Take This Hammer,' one of the album's best tracks and some of the best Baldry in years. Another highlight is Baldry's take on 'John Hardy,' his voice nicely complemented by a 1865 pump organ and harmonium accompaniment - a peculiar treatment that makes for one of the disc's most poignant moments. 'Good Morning Blues' begins with a primitive tape Baldry made in '58 featuring a scratchy lead vocal and guitar; when it gives way to a modern recording, it nicely sums up this entire exercise. Remembering Leadbelly is an uneven effort, but the tracks that hit home hit hard and capitalize on Baldry's still-smoky growl while shaking him out of his too-composed take on gentleman's Blues.' A worthy tribute. by ERIC THOM - Blues Revue

LJB Trio

BLUES REVUE - LONG JOHN BALDRY TRIO - Long John Baldry possesses a voice you can't forget; it's been described as everything from a deep, parched croak to 'Bailey's over gravel'. Baldry has, over the course of his career, become a living legend. His historical importance is undeniable on the British Blues-Rock and R&B scenes: Beginning his career in the 50s, he sang with Ramblin' Jack Elliott before channeling his love of Blues into Alexis Korner's Blues Incorporated and Cyril Davies R&B All-Stars. His involvement with early supergroup Steampacket (with Brian Auger, Julie Driscoll and Rod Stewart) and Bluesology, with keyboardist Reg Dwight aka Elton John.

He endeared himself to the Claptons, Jaggers, Lennons and McCartneys, and his charismatic manner set the stage for a success that never quite materialized. This classic underachiever with oversized talent eventually moved to Canada, where he's been quietly and consistently releasing polite, Blues-based records to loyal fans. Live serves as a generous retrospective performed before a reserved German audience. Trio members Matt Taylor (on acoustic and electric guitars) and Butch Coulter (on harmonica) up the Blues ante, adding meat to the bones of Baldry's solo act. Baldry, at 59, still commands the smoky growl that should've guaranteed him superstar status. And the fire still burns across tracks like 'Black Girl' (featuring able support by Christina Lux), 'It Ain't Easy' and Tim Hardin's 'Morning Dew,' but the overall mood is intimate, bordering on supper club. Baldry's personality remains infectious, and this polished tour of material old and new serves as a reminder of the praise he earned during his too-short reign as king. His ability to apply utterly distinctive vocals to well-entrenched Blues roots is deserving of public acclaim. -by ERIC THOM - Blues Revue

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