Josh White, (1914-1969), packed a lot of adventure and music into his 55 years of life. A practitioner of the southern blues who branched out into gospel, country blues, and traditional folk; he was an early black artist whose issued a number of protest songs. A friend of President Franklyn Roosevelt, for whom he gave a command performance at the White House in 1941; he was blacklisted during the McCarthy Era of the 1950’s. He made a commercial comeback during the 1960’s and his music and style has influenced the generations of folk and blues singers who have followed.
Now Ramseur Records will reissue what may be his finest album on August 19. Josh At Midnight, originally released in 1956, is primarily of album of traditional folk songs from a southern blues perspective.
It is a raw album with roots firmly entrenched in the Delta blues of the first half of the 20th century. Only one microphone was used during the recording session and the only instrument besides White’s guitar is the bass of jazz musician Al Hall. The only other person involved was vocalist Sam Gary. The remastering makes everything have a clarity that is superior to the original vinyl release but it is still primitive by today’s musical standards.
Nine of the 12 tracks are in the public domain, which fits White’s approach well. “Joshua Fit The Battle Of Jericho,” “Jelly Jelly,” “Jesus Gonna Make Up My Dyin’ Bed,” and “Takin’ Names” are fused into a blues style and sound. White does not perform the songs as much as he attack’s them. There is passion and emotion that combines with harshness.
Josh At Midnight is a resurrection and re-introduction of an important musician who is often forgotten about in the 21st century. The fact that it has been reissued as a vinyl only release adds an authenticity to the listening experience.