That this varied, various-artists release is named for the Fisk University folklorist who collected a great variety of African-American music with and without Alan Lomax says much for the new esteem in which Work is held. It is the slightly overdue companion piece to Robert Gordon and Bruce Nemerov’s Lost Delta Found, published in 2005. It is also proof of Work’s work, of the variety of vernacular musical styles afoot in black music at the edge of WWII. Some of Work’s discs were donated to the Library of Congress; these fourteen tracks came from the collection he held back. Included are examples of black sacred harp singing, of blues, of work songs, of gospel quartets, etc. The Fairfield Four and a brief interview with Muddy Waters provide tentative handholds for contemporary listeners, but it is necessary to remember, no matter modern restorations, that these sides were recorded on modest equipment and well-used. The pity is that Work’s efforts went poorly funded, and that there aren’t hundreds of these sides, cut on much better gear.
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Originally Featured in Issue #73 Jan-Feb 2008
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