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Carl Martin – “Joe Louis Blues”

This song is personal favorite of mine. Carl Martin’s humorous admonition to all prize fighters, telling them to stay off Joe Louis’ beat is a classic. There isn’t a wasted word in this song, and Martin’s delivery is as solid as a punch from the champ himself. It’s a shame the 78 has the snap, crackle, pop of an old recording.

Clayton McMichen – “Grave In The Pines”

ClaytonMcMichenPDBorn in January of 1900 in Allatoona, Georgia, Clayton McMichen had his great success recording with Gid Tanner and the Skillet Lickers and Hometown Boys, and also as a solo artist. His solo effort performance of “Grave In The Pines” is a starkly sweet and sincere lament to a fallen love. McMichen performed regularly in Louisville, Kentucky until retiring in 1955, and later returning to the stage at the Newport Folk Festival in 1964.

Earl Johnson and His Clodhoppers- “Ain’t Nobody’s Business”

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This righteous song claims freedom from stodgy ways. Punk before there was Punk.  A blues standard, this was adapted for fiddle by Earl Johnson, who learned to play the fiddle from his father. I’m sure you’ll notice the attitude this fiddler’s arrangement has. I admire the spunk!

Leadbelly – “Where Did You Sleep Last Night?”

The great Leadbelly, with one of his classic sides that helped define American music in the 20th century and beyond. Over his own distinctive, relaxed guitar accompaniment, Leadbelly’s vocal on this recording is simply magnificent. Widely revered by music fans and covered by blues scholars, “Where Did You Sleep Last Night?” was also sung by Kurt Cobain on Nirvana’s Unplugged album.

Duke Ellington – “Louisiana”

Duke Ellington-PianoHere’s a magnificent recording of Duke Ellington’s orchestra performing “Louisiana.” Back then there was no such thing as an overdub, much less any auto-tune or fancy editing software. Heck, you even had to mix the record while you were playing it into one mic! These cats could play for real. What a joy to hear such craft and art, delivered with humor and heart.