improvised, as if Jones is moaning when the spirit says “moan,” shouting when the spirit says “shout.” The track “Devil Don’t Understand Moaning,” for instance, is part of a sermon — a traditional black sermon in which you don’t realize when the music subtly takes over from the preaching. At one point, Jones’ guttural shouts sound as if he’s in the midst of a struggle deep inside his soul.
The screams of a female parishioner whose soul is obviously on fire give a real edge to “Sometimes I Feel Like I’m Almost Gone.” Obviously, the word “almost” wasn’t necessary for some of those who felt the spirit while this was being recorded.
Baby, How Can It Be? Songs of Love, Lust, and Contempt From the 1920s and 1930s. While the other discs I’m reviewing this week are field recordings (with some tracks recorded in actual fields), this three-disc set from Dust-to-Digital consists of commercial 78-rpm records.
The themes of love, lust, and contempt each get their own disc. The 66 songs are taken from the collection of old-timey musician John Heneghan (he has a band in New York called Eden & John’s East River String Band). The songs include hillbilly, blues, jazz, jug band, string band, and even a few Hawaiian tunes. The collection spills over with sex and humor.
There are some famous people in this compilation — Cab Calloway, Mississippi John Hurt, and Blind Lemon Jefferson. But some of the obscure artists steal the show, like screechy-voiced Mississippi Matilda, George “Shortbuckle” Roark (who insists “I Ain’t a Bit Drunk”), and Laura Smith, who kicks off the Contempt disc with a funny ditty called “I’m Gonna Kill Myself.”
Grateful Deadheads will recognize “Don’t Leave Me Here” by Henry Thomas. The Dead turned it into “Don’t Ease Me In” — coffee, tea, and jailhouse key included. R. Crumb’s Cheap Suit Serenaders covered “Pussy,” a song about a special feline by Harry Roy and His Bat Club Boys on the Lust disc. Meanwhile, Tiny Tim fans will be happy to find the original “Tiptoe Through the Tulips With Me” by Eddie Peabody.
Wave The Ocean, Wave The Sea; Worried Now, Won’t Be Worried Long; I’ll Meet You On That Other Shore; I’ll Be So Glad When the Sun Goes Down & I’m Gonna Live Anyhow Until I Die. These five albums feature selections from Alan Lomax’s Southern Journey,