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Lead Belly

January 20 is the birthday of Huddie Ledbetter, better known as Lead Belly (c. 1888–1949). Smithsonian Folkways is celebrating with a new social media series, “Lead Belly: Song by Song.”  This will be followed on February 24 by the release of Lead Belly: The Smithsonian Folkways Collection, a multi-CD set of recordings spanning the artist’s career.

See the Smithsonian Folkways Facebook and Tumbler pages, and check the additional audio tracks here, including a rendition of his most famous song, “Goodnight, Irene.”

Singing and Praying Bands

Predating blues and jazz, but now disappearing, one of the oldest African-American performance traditions is honored by the National Endowment for the Arts . . .

According to oral tradition, the bands began with secret outdoor meetings in antebellum times. Later, this tradition became a part of Methodist prayer meetings that began with lined-out hymns (a way of singing initiated by a leader who would chant a line of a song and the congregation would sing it back) and concluded with a form of ring shout that blended West African traditions of song and movement in a circle.

NEA site, with video and audio.

WBUR radio story.

Vimeo video.

Grover Burt

A new book with wonderful photos of blues musicians . . . And check out the excellent collection of audio files down the page linked below!

As founder and executive director of the Music Maker Relief Foundation, Tim Duffy snapped photos while helping musicians make ends meet. The photos and captions in his new book of his black-and-white photography tell a rich and vivid history of the life and music of these artists.

Read on at PBS.org.