Various ‎– Roots Of The Blues

New World Records ‎– NW 252
Vinyl, LP, Compilation, Stereo, Mono

Companies, etc.



Back cover bears the logo of the American Revolution Bicentennial (1776-1976), below which reads: "These recordings were made possible through a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation."

Front and back covers list the title as "Roots Of The Blues", while labels and spine read "The Roots Of The Blues".

Pasted into the gatefold is a four-page insert with liner notes, lyrics, and an essay, "Roots of the Blues".

A1 contains two recordings on one band: "Louisiana" and "Field Song From Senegal" have been spliced together to show sonic similarities.

Barcode and Other Identifiers

  • Matrix / Runout (Side A): NWS 252 A-2 #2
  • Matrix / Runout (Side B): NWS 252 B #2
  • Other (Library Of Congress Card No.): 77-750356

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March 28, 2012

A nice, but inessential, repackaging of recordings from Alan Lomax's 1959 travels through the South. If you can find a cheap copy, it's worth picking up for the field recordings of prisoners and churchgoers, and Fred McDowell is wonderful as always. But it's hard to recommend the album as a whole, due to some questionable curating choices which occasionally become intrusive.

For example, the first track is a splicing together of two worksongs -- one from Louisiana, one from Senegal -- designed to show their sonic similarities. This is a bizarre choice; those of us who love field recordings love them because they are in some sense "pure," and (relatively) free of the meddling of dilettantes and businessmen. Here we get a hybrid that would be better suited to a radio documentary than a record album. Why not just put them side-by-side and let us compare for ourselves?

The last tune, Forrest City Joe's "You Gotta Cut That Out", is essentially an example of commercialized latter-day electric blues and feels totally out of place alongside the other material. Lomax's liner notes acknowledge this, calling it "amusing but not memorable music." Again, the idea is to show a narrative, whereby the blues starts in Africa, moves on to the American countryside, and eventually finds its way to the mainstream. Such focus on documentary value at the expense of listener enjoyment would make sense in a completest's box set, but doesn't work at all on a 50-minute LP.