Josh White - The Elektra Years (US Release)
The Elektra Years (US Release)
- Release Date: 10/05/2004
- An individually numbered limited editionof 2500 Copies.
- 39 Tracks
- 2 Disc
Josh White's signing to Elektra Records in 1955 was the beginning of a third career phase for the South Carolina-born folk-blues singer and a big break for the label. At age 14 Josh recorded with the blind gospel singer Joe Taggart, which led to a contract with the American Record Corporation (later Columbia). In the mid-1930s, following a hand injury that left him unable to play guitar for several years, White appeared on Broadway and found success as a cabaret performer. During this time he emerged as a protest singer and released his biggest-selling record, "One Meat Ball," one of the defining hits of the post war, early folk revival. Then his career was nearly destroyed by the McCarthy hearings of the early 1950s.
Despite the McCarthy hearings Elektra founder Jac Holzman was happy to sign White and free him to make records his own way. The singer's Elektra debut, 1955's The Story Of John Henry, was a significant success that interspersed Henry's legend with appropriate songs from White's past and present. Then came the career-defining Josh At Midnight, the label's first 12-inch LP and one of its biggest sellers throughout the next decade.
In the '40s White was as likely to perform English ballads and folk songs as the blues. But Holzman encouraged him to emphasize not only his African-American material, but his sexual charisma as well. Nonetheless, blues purists often criticized White's seven Elektra-era recordings as too "slick." (Indeed, when the first blues boom cooled with the onset of World War II, White shaped his repertoire to appeal to white, urban folk fans.) But his work is all the more genuine when seen as the honest expression of a sophisticated, intelligent artist who had been living in New York since 1931. To masquerade as a man of the cotton fields would have been disingenuous and out of Josh's character.
As Holzman put it, "Josh was his own man in a time before it became fashionable."
Produced for release by Jac Holzman, Rhino Handmade's two-disc The Elektra Years spans 1955-1962 with tracks from White's seven LPs for the label, plus the ARC recording "Lay Some Flowers On My Grave." A tri-fold digipack sleeve includes a booklet with rare photos and liner and track notes by Elijah Wald, author of the acclaimed Escaping The Delta: Robert Johnson And The Invention Of The Blues.