Lead Belly’s Gold

If you're a folk singer—and Eric Bibb certainly qualifies, both by birth (his father was Leon Bibb, a folk singer popular in the 1960s) and inclination (now 64, he's recorded almost 40 albums)—you'll want to come to grips with the musical career of Huddie Ledbetter, America's most iconic folk singer. Joined on Lead Belly's Gold by JJ Milteau, a French harmonica player, the pair explores a baker's dozen of songs either written or sung by the imposing black man who was discovered 82 years ago on a Louisiana prison farm where he was doing time for stabbing a white man, not the first example of his violent behavior. But the more restrained Bibb and Milteau are no match for a lot of Lead Belly's music. The wheezy harmonica seems out of place, and where's the 12-string guitar? However, they don't pull any punches on “Bourgeois Blues,” a scathing indictment of segregation that effectively uses the N-word. And yes, “Goodnight, Irene” is also here.