“Work Songs of the U.S.A.” Album Review

Work Songs of the USA - Lead Belly (1942)

Album: Work Songs of the U.S.A.

Artist: Lead Belly

Year: 1942

Genre: Folk

Grade: A-

Having already recorded collections of country blues, prison music and children’s songs, Huddie “Lead Belly” Ledbetter next set his sights on Work Songs of the U.S.A. As the title describes, the album features adaptations of old railroad tunes (“Take This Hammer” and “Rock Island Line”), maritime shanties (“Haul Away Joe”) and more. We even get one Irish folk outlier that features Lead Belly on accordion (“Corn Bread Rough”).

Lead Belly’s best music always takes influence from the distant past. As one of the earliest modern bluesmen, it’s no surprise that his signature style was much simpler than that of his contemporaries. 12-string strumming is relegated to the background, which allows Lead Belly’s voice to take center stage. His singing carries the album.

Work Songs of the U.S.A. is a nice document of 19th century America, performed by a charismatic bluesman who was old enough to have lived through part of it.

“Work Songs of the U.S.A.” Album Review

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