On February 26, the Global Jukebox digital-only label will drop The Devil’s Dream, the first release of Alan Lomax’s 1942 recordings of the late, great Southern musician Sid Hemphill. Transferred from fragile original acetate discs and expertly mastered and speed-corrected, the album is a portrait of a once-thriving black regional musical tradition, now all but extinct in its native habitat.
A multi-instrumentalist, bandleader and composer, Hemphill (1876-1961) was for decades the musical patriarch of the Mississippi Hill Country. He and his band — comprised of fellow-Panola County, Mississippi, residents Alec “Turpentine” Askew, Will Head and Lucius Smith (pictured with the banjo above, with Hemphill) — were fixtures at dances, picnics and frolics throughout the right triangle formed by Memphis, the Delta and the Hill Country.
Alan Lomax recorded Blind Sid in August 1942, near Sledge, Mississippi, where his band was appearing at a country picnic and banging out their breakdowns, marches and square-dance tunes, as well as several blues ballads composed by Hemphill himself. By that date, hundreds of commercial records had been made of the music of the Delta, and the preponderance of those were of or relating to the blues form, with guitar or piano accompaniment. Lomax’s were the first made of the Hill Country’s local music, and contributed to a broader perspective of black vernacular instrumentation, with their inclusion of the fiddle and banjo of the string band, the fife and drum ensemble, and the cane panpipes or “quills.”
To hear a wonderful audio sample from The Devil’s Dream, go to: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MuDbKpv90Ys.
Visit Global Jukebox Records at: www.globaljukeboxrecords.com.
1. The Devil’s Dream
2. The Eighth of January
3. Hog Hunt
4. Keep My Skillet Good and Greasy
5. The Carrier Line
6. Soon In the Morning
7. Leather Britches
8. Arkansas Traveler
9. Come On Boys, Let’s Go to the Ball
10. John Henry
11. Jesse James
12. Sidewalks of New York
13. Rye Straw
14. Boll Weevil
15. So Soon I’ll Be At Home
Photo by Alan Lomax