Various Deep River of Song Volumes 1-3: Black Texicans; Bahamas 1935; Bl

Rounder’s wonderful retrospective of the Alan Lomax Collection continues with the first three volumes of Deep River of Song. 53 of 75 performances are previously unreleased and confirm the treasure trove Lomax and his father documented in a lifetime of recording for the U.S. Library of Congress. The traditions they documented have now all but vanished. Black Texicans reveals the lost legacy of black participants in the cowboy song tradition. Leadbelly is the most famous performer, but five songs by a cappella singer Moses “Clear Rock” Platt, rival him for haunting vocal power. This brilliant anthology confirms Lomax’s observation that many black settlers lived on the pioneer trails. Their hollers and work songs had a permanent impact upon western song traditions. Black Texicans celebrates why “John Henry” was no myth but simply the most legendary black cowboy of them all. Among the most fascinating Lomax projects are the a cappella Chanteys and Anthems of Bahamas 1935. Because of the technological limitations of the period, 21of 24 performances were previously unreleased, including “Histe Up The John B. Sail,” a marvellous example of how sounds from the past can inspire future harmonies. Here the call and response patterns of African music combine with a traditional maritime song to inspire a future pop masterpiece: Brian Wilson’s arrangement of “Sloop John B” by the Beach Boys. Bahamas 1935 is worth owning for this performance alone. The vibrant banjo picking and vocals of Jimmie Strothers animates the opening hoe-down “Cripple Creek” to confirm Lomax’s assertion that black musicians “helped to create the square dance music of the Southern frontier, to develop new styles for the fiddle, banjo, and guitar, and to lay the basis for modern country music.” The vital tradition documented on Black Appalachia cannot be overestimated for as Lomax concludes: “This is the black music that preceded ragtime, jazz, and the blues.” As half the performances here are previously unreleased, this definitive set is essential. Wonderful stuff. (Rounder)