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Free & Equal Blues

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Performer Notes
  • Personnel: Josh White, Lead Belly (vocals, guitar); The Union Boys (vocals); Bill Coleman (trumpet); Mary Lou Williams (piano); Jimmy Butts (bass); Eddie Dougherty (drums); Audience (background vocals).
  • The Union Boys include: Josh White (vocals, guitar); Pete Seeger (vocals, banjo); Alan Lomax (vocals); Burl Ives, Tom Glazer, Brownie McGhee.
  • Recorded between 1944 and 1946. Includes liner notes by Elijah Wald and Jeff Place.
  • All tracks have been digitally remastered.
  • Personnel: Josh White (vocals, guitar); Pete Seeger (vocals, banjo); Alan Lomax, Union Boys (vocals); Bill Coleman (trumpet); Mary Lou Williams (piano); Eddie Dougherty (drums).
  • Liner Note Author: Elijah Wald.
  • Recording information: 03/11/1944-??/??/1946.
  • Unknown Contributor Roles: Michael Maloney; Tom Glazer; Brownie McGhee; Burl Ives.
  • Arrangers: Josh White; Leonard DePaur.
  • This fine 26-song compilation of material was recorded by folklorist Moses Asch in the 1940s, at a time when Josh White was beginning to reach an urban, educated audience with his mixture of blues, folk, and pop styles. What comes across particularly strong in this set is his versatility and all-around appeal; he handles topical songs about discrimination and war, spirituals, covers of blues by Leroy Carr and Victoria Spivey, folk ballads, and theatrical pieces, even extending to a cover of Cole Porter's "Miss Otis Regrets." "One Meatball" provided some of the musical inspiration for the classic Merle Travis tune "Sixteen Tons"; "Freedom Road" had lyrics by poet Langston Hughes. Because he was less earthy and not as Southern-sounding as Leadbelly and Big Bill Broonzy, White has been accorded less critical respect, but this anthology shows him to be one of the unquestioned linchpins of the first stirrings of the folk revival. Free & Equal Blues includes copious notes by White biographer Elijah Wald. ~ Richie Unterberger
Professional Reviews
Entertainment Weekly (5/22/98, p.70) - "...White's burnished voice and mellow guitar are underrepresented on CD, so this 26-song collection from his '40s heyday is welcome..." - Rating: B

Mojo (Publisher) (4/99, pp.118-119) - "...arguably the most important bluesman on the New York scene in the mid-40' invaluable release..."
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