Why is Lead Belly’s The Tradition Masters on my best 1,000 albums ever list?
Blues and folk music from a true master.
Some stats & info about Lead Belly – The Tradition Masters: Lead Belly
- What kind of musical stylings does this album represent? Blues, Folk Music
- Rolling Stone’s greatest 500 albums ranking – not ranked!
- All Music’s rating – 3 out of 5 stars
- When was The Tradition Masters: Lead Belly released? 1939
- My ranking, the one you’re reading right now – #953 out of 1,000
Lead Belly’s The Tradition Masters on Spotify
What does the “best 1,000 albums ever” mean and why are you doing this?
Yeah, I know it’s audacious, a little crazy (okay, maybe a lot cray cray), bordering on criminal nerdery.
But here’s what it’s NOT: a definitive list of the Greatest Albums of All-Time. This is 100% my own personal super biased, incredibly subjective take on what my top 1,000 albums are, ranked in painstaking order over the course of doing research for nearly a year, Rob from High Fidelity style. Find out more about why I embarked on a best 1,000 albums ever project.
What does Lead Belly’s The Tradition Masters mean to me? What does it make me feel? Why is it exciting or compelling?
When I listen to this album, it feels somehow timeless and essential and fully and deeply American all at once. Some of the songs, such as “New Orleans (The Rising Sun Blues” and “Where Did You Sleep Last Night,” feel like they’ve been with me for all or most of my life due to other artists (The Animals and Nirvana, respectively in this case) takes on these classics.
I wouldn’t consider myself to be particularly drawn to blues music or folk music – though there’s undoubtedly exceptional depths to explore in those genres – but I find the blend Lead Belly’s blues and folk concoction to be soothing and pleasing in a deeply satisfying way.
Speaking of those songs I mention above, it’s fun to match Lead Belly’s version with the later rock-based version from the likes of the very 1960s sound of The Animals and the iconic 1990s “grunge” sound by way of Kurt Cobain and Nirvana.
Here’s Lead Belly’s “New Orleans (The Rising Sun Blues).”
And The Animals’ “House of the Rising Sun.”
And if you really want to dig back further into the history of this song and American music: “’House of Rising Sun’ was said to have been known by American miners in 1905.”
And Lead Belly’s “Where Did You Sleep Last Night.”
Nirvana’s incredible version as part of their MTV Unplugged performance.
And as bonus here’s another great example: check out the middle section of Lead Belly’s “Looky, Looky, Younger / Black Betty / Yellow Women’s Doorbells” followed by what might be the more familiar sound of Ram Jam’s version.
Pop culture stuff that’s somehow related to Lead Belly’s The Tradition Masters
Lead Belly was not Lead Belly’s real name, who knew!? The artist was originally known as Huddie William Ledbetter. Also:
Lead Belly usually played a twelve-string guitar, but he also played the piano, mandolin, harmonica, violin, and windjammer. In some of his recordings, he sang while clapping his hands or stomping his foot.
Lead Belly’s songs covered a wide range of genres and topics including gospel music; blues about women, liquor, prison life, and racism; and folk songs about cowboys, prison, work, sailors, cattle herding, and dancing. He also wrote songs about people in the news, such as Franklin D. Roosevelt, Adolf Hitler, Jean Harlow, Jack Johnson, the Scottsboro Boys and Howard Hughes. Lead Belly was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988 and the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame in 2008.