Alan Lomax’s Southern Journey Remixed (Rounder, 2004)
This CD has generated a lot of controversy because of its use of samples. New Orleans-based Tangle Eye has taken original vocal performances sampled from Alan Lomax’s Southern Journey field recordings, remixing them, adding music and beats. Purists dislike these kinds of experiments, but I think the result is an outstanding collection of modernized American roots songs.
Tangle Eye’s musicians, Scott Billington and Steve Reynolds, began creating remixes of roots music in the early 1990s, with versions of zydeco songs by such artists as Beaujocque and Chris Ardoin released as 12″ vinyl singles for theHouston dance market. In seeking a more ambitious project, the duo approached the Alan Lomax Archive and began working with Lomax’s superb field recordings made in the American South from the 1940s to the 1960s (released on Rounder as the Southern Journey series). Tangle Eye’s approach was to use voices, most of which were original a cappella performances, in new settings. The opening track, “John Henry’s Blues,” samples a vocal by Ed Lewis, a convict at the Mississippi State Penitentiary, and the listener can still hear the sound of Lewis’s axe chopping a tree as he sang. Against a chugging groove, pianist Henry Buder reharmonizes the traditional song.
“Chantey,” which uses a vocal by The Bright Light Quartet, a group of Atlantic Coast fishermen, is re-interpreted with a rock steady reggae beat, with solos from teenaged New Orleans brass band musicians Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews and James Matthews.
“Soldier,” which samples the hymn, “I’m a Soldier in the Army of the Lord,” is a full-blown house mix, with keyboard work from Davell Crawford. Other contributing contemporary musicians include Meters bassist George Porter, Jr., Galactic guitarist Jeff Raines, old-time fiddler Dirk Powell, bluesman Corey Harris, trombonist Delfeayo Marsalis and bluegrass Dobro virtuoso Rob Ickes.