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Free & Equal Blues
Josh White
Free & Equal Blues
Genres: Blues, Folk, Pop
  •  Track Listings (26) - Disc #1

Josh White (1914-1969) was a brilliant musician whose vibrant guitar and rich vocals captivated audiences for decades. Recorded at the height of his career by Moses Asch in the 1940s, he performs these 26 blues, gospel, po...  more »


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CD Details

All Artists: Josh White
Title: Free & Equal Blues
Members Wishing: 2
Total Copies: 0
Label: Smithsonian Folkways
Original Release Date: 3/17/1998
Release Date: 3/17/1998
Genres: Blues, Folk, Pop
Styles: Delta Blues, Traditional Blues, Traditional Folk
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaCD Credits: 1
UPC: 093074008126


Album Description
Josh White (1914-1969) was a brilliant musician whose vibrant guitar and rich vocals captivated audiences for decades. Recorded at the height of his career by Moses Asch in the 1940s, he performs these 26 blues, gospel, popular, and hard-hitting topical songs solo or accompanied by such contemporaries as Lead Belly, Mary Lou Williams, and the Almanac Singers. Extensive biographical notes, photographs, archivist's remarks, bibliography, and discography. 74 minutes. Produced and compiled by Jeff Place and Elijah Wald. Additional annotation by Kip Lornell.

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CD Reviews

Wonderful--Josh White's Free and Equal Blues
JoMama | MA, USA | 04/02/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Josh White's Free and Equal Blues is a wonderful album, full of personal and political stories. Just the liner notes about Mr. White's life are worth the price of the CD, but the songs are truly glorious. Some are funny, and some are heartbreaking, but all of them are sung with great feeling and a gorgeous, smooth voice. It's been said that some of his songs are predecessors to rap music. Whether that's true or not, Josh White's music is a real treat, even after more than 60 years. Get it!"
A Free And Equal Man
Alfred Johnson | boston, ma | 01/12/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Most of the points that I made in a previous review, the first two paragraphs of which are reposted below, of a Josh White DVD film documentary apply here as well.

"I have spent no little ink over the past year or so reviving memories of various folk and blues artists whose music helped me pass away my youth, a youth that otherwise would have been cluttered solely with little things like the fight for a more just society, attempts to understand history and, maybe as importantly, the individual's role in it-mine. As a part of that past I had spent more than a few Sunday evenings listening to a folk program on a local radio station. As a result I became very familiar with the name Josh White as an exemplar of soulful folk and blues tunes. And the first song that I recall hearing from this iconic figure?- "You, Can't Get No Bread With One Meatball". Go figure, right?

That oddly funny selection (not played here, although it would have been nice to hear it again), fortunately, does not reflect the very serious nature of Josh White's work, his personality and his struggle as a fighter for black liberation. We are treated to all aspects of that work in this one hour film of rare clips; mostly it appears to be material from early television performances. We are favored with the smooth voice, the strong guitar work (when required to give urgency to songs like the anti-Jim Crow ones presented here early on) and the sense of showmanship and professionalism that I remember the folk historian Dave Van Ronk mentioning concerning Josh's approach to performing. But what stand out here are the songs- from the intense "Strange Fruit" (an anti-Jim Crow song also covered in a different way by Billie Holiday) to a crowd-pleasing "Danny Boy". If this is your first exposure to this legendary figure in the folk and blues world then I would only state you have found a good place to start."

That said, it is only necessary to make a few extra comments here about the range of material that White was capable of delivering depending on audience and other circumstances but first this political comment. Smithsonian Folkway almost be definition provide great liner notes accompanying its productions. According to those provided here, written by folk historian Elijah Wald who has already more recently written a biography of folk singer Dave Van Ronk, Brother White ran afoul of the House Un-American Activities Committee during the heart of the McCarthyite "red scare" campaign of the 1950's. While it is unclear whether White named names he did not, as was necessary, refuse to co-operate. This tarnished his reputation in the New York left-wing community. And it should have.

One can nevertheless understand why the various anti-red committees and others would have an interest in Brother White. I mentioned his version of the anti-lynching "Strange Fruit" above, for one. How about Langston Hughes' "Freedom Road" for another. Or "Jim Crow". Or "Landlord". But, you get the drift. The there is the less political stuff that still would have to be a little suspect once you realized this was someone trying to be a black liberation fighter, before it was fashionable (or safe). Here Cole Porter's "Miss Otis Regrets" is fine. As is "Careless Love" and Victoria Spivey's "T B Blues". And, of course, that above-mentioned "One Meatball". I wish Brother White had held up better politically but he has no problem standing up musically.