Personnel: Lead Belly (vocals, guitar, concertina, piano); Brownie McGhee (vocals, guitar); William Langford, Henry Owens, Clyde Riddick, Golden Gate Quartet, Orlandus Wilson (vocals); Josh White (guitar); Paul Mason Howard (zither); Sonny Terry (harmonica); Willie "The Lion" Smith (piano).
Liner Note Author: Neil Slaven.
Recording information: Austin, TX (??/??/1934-06/15/1949); Hollywood, CA (??/??/1934-06/15/1949); Louisiana State Penitentiary, Angola, LA (??/??/1934-06/15/1949); New York, NY (??/??/1934-06/15/1949); Washington DC (??/??/1934-06/15/1949); Wilton, CT (??/??/1934-06/15/1949).
Despite its sensational cover art, which plays up the American folk legend's time served in jail, this U.K. four-CD box set is a comprehensive overview of Leadbelly's best-known recordings, including John and Alan Lomax's 1930s tapes made for the Library of Congress and the artist's later 1940s recordings, done with a quartet and the harmonica player Sonny Terry. Favorites like "Goodnight Irene," "Rock Island Line," and "Pick a Bale of Cotton" sit alongside more contemporary material like "Howard Hughes," about the eccentric millionaire's flying exploits, and "The Bourgeois Blues" (later recorded by Ry Cooder, among others) about Leadbelly's racially charged visit to the nation's capital.