Lonnigans Skiffle Group ‘A Tribute to Lead Belly’ (Lonnigan) 4/5

lonnigans-skiffle-groupFolk-blues singer-songwriter Huddie Leadbetter aka Lead Belly is one of the towering figures of the blues tradition and, although he passed away in 1949 at the age of sixty-one, his music provided the springboard for the folk music revival in the 1950s and beyond. The kind of music in fact that was feted in the last Coen Brothers film, ‘Inside Llewelyn Davis’. Lead band member Derek Mason went over to the United States and enlisted the support of one Pete Seeger, himself a seminal individual in US folk music history (and someone who actually performed with Lead Belly when he was alive), and his participation opened the doors to further key musicians who participated on this celebratory recording such as singer Oscar Brand, Odetta, Tom Paley and the UK’s very own Ralph McTell. The Lonnigans specialise in old-time and folk-blues, and excel throughout on both instrumentation and harmony vocals. Pete Seeger narrates on a terrific folk-blues tinged ‘Bourgeois Blues’ while the repetitive trombone heavy riff on ‘Black Betty’ cooks up a storm. There is something of an old-time feel to ‘Carless Love’ on which Connie Lonnigan offers the sweetest of lead vocals with banjo and harmonica in accompaniment. A beautifully illustrated booklet evokes the great folk-blues singer tradition with some gorgeous black and white photos as well as colour ones of the present day.

This album was originally released in 2010, but was only on limited availability since it was sold exclusively at LSG concerts and this is the first more general distribution allowing a much wider audience to appreciate their multiple talents. Two of the US participants have died after the completion of the project, Odetta in 2008 and Seeger in 2014. Incidentally, the collective group’s name is a hybrid of the name Lonnie Donnigan whose main musical claim to fame was as a pioneer of the UK skiffle movement in the 1950 that so influenced a whole new generation of musicians who would subsequently be in the vanguard of blues, jazz, rock and other related music forms. These included Van Morrison, Robert Plant and Keith Richards. A wonderful recreation of a key period in the evolution of British blues. As a tribute to the music of Lead Belly, in June 2015 a concert event at the Royal Albert Hall was organised by Derek Mason and featured an all-star cast with Eric Bibb, Eric Burden, Jools Holland, Paul Jones and Van Morrison among those participating and an equivalent concert had already taken place at Carnegie Hall in April with Alison Krauss, Robert Plant and Lucinda Williams actively present. For further information on the legacy of Lead Belly, visit www.atributetoleadbelly.com