Some people think of the great B.B. King when they think of blues, and that ain’t a bad way to go, nor would Howling Wolf, Muddy Waters, Robert Johnson or anyone with “Blind,” “Big” or “Dog” in their name, be bad choices. I love so many of the early Blues players but there has always been something special between myself and the man known as Lead Belly. Bigger than life in every way, Lead Belly personified the kind of life that gave a man the blues, then he poured his heart out for everyone to hear.
Eric Bibb and JJ Milteau seem to feel much the way I do and to honor the great bluesman, they recorded a new album, Lead Belly’s Gold. The most loved songs, either written by, or easily associated with Lead Belly, are all here. Eric Bibb, the son of folk master Leon Bibb, has been steeped in the blues his whole life. On this album, he is accompanied by JJ Milteau, a French harmonica player who brings an unexpected authenticity to each song.
For those new to the songs of Lead Belly, it can be a bit unnerving when you hear songs like ‘Midnight Special’ and The ‘House of the Rising Sun’ performed decades before the 60s and 70s rock bands that brought them to the world’s attention. While many of these songs authorship is lost to the southern fields in which they were born, they owe their continued existence, at least in part, to Lead Belly.
Lead Belly’s Gold is filled with love and admiration for the man, the songs and their importance in music history. Eric and JJ masterfully walk through this time and add a piece of their own with three new songs written from the viewpoint of Lead Belly himself. Lead Belly’s Gold is beautifully recorded and is a great addition to anyone’s blues collection. I found myself going back and listening to original versions of the songs again and you should do the same.
Lead Belly’s Gold is a work of passion and it deserves your attention.