‘Birthright: A Black Roots Music Compendium’ Gives Us A 40-Track Introduction To Unknowns And Icons

[Cover image of Etta Baker courtesy of the Craft Recordings / Concord archives]

Craft Recordings have announced the upcoming release of Birthright: A Black Roots Music Compendium, a 40-track overview of American Black Roots music on February 17th on 2CD and digital formats. Produced by author, professor, and Grammy-nominated music historian Dr. Ted Olson, along with Grammy-winning producer, musician, and author Scott Billington, Birthright sets out to be an introduction to the varied world of Black Roots music.

Spanning generations and genres, the 40 songs in the collection showcase a broad range of styles from Gospel and Blues to Louisiana Creole, Jazz, Gullah music, and more, while the artists range from little-known musicians to icons like John Lee Hooker, Odetta, The Staple Singers, and Lightnin’ Hopkins.

Birthright also features some rarities, as well as the previously unreleased “Georgie Buck” by the Carolina Chocolate Drops (a collective of musicians that includes Dom Flemons, Rhiannon Giddens, and Justin Robinson) featuring fiddler Joe Thompson.

The 2-CD edition also includes essays from musicians/scholars Corey Harris and Dom Flemons, as well as an introduction and detailed track notes by Olson. Birthright not only seeks to pay tribute to an essential canon of American music, but also demonstrates the pervasive influence of Black Roots music on popular culture, from Country to Hip-Hop.

While the voices on Birthright are unique, they all share a common thread. As Harris puts it:

When we listen to the artists on this set, we are hearing the voice of a people determined to express themselves and be heard above the empty, metallic din of progress, above the saccharine pop and soulless glam of the industry. When the power goes out and the internet goes down, some of us will still be playing music and sharing our joys and pains with one another in song. Black roots music is a testament to the fact that if modern civilization were to collapse, we have the power and the spirit to rise up once again. We only need to hold on to our roots. This is an excellent place to start.

Tracklist (2-CD):

CD 1

1. Preservation Hall Jazz Band – Bourbon Street Parade

2. Corey Harris and Shardé Thomas – Station Blues

3. Mississippi Fred McDowell – 61 Highway

4. Carolina Chocolate Drops, featuring Joe Thompson – Georgie Buck*       

5. Ranky Tanky – Ranky Tanky

6. Etta Baker – One Dime Blues

7. Bois Sec Ardoin and Canray Fontenot – Eunice Two Step

8. Lightnin’ Hopkins – Automobile Blues

9. Bennie Richardson – Grizzly Bear

10. The Staple Singers – Motherless Children

11. Brownie McGhee and Sonny Terry – Blues Before Sunrise

12. Dink Roberts – Fox Chase

13. Martin, Bogan, and Armstrong – Sweet Georgia Brown

14. Golden Eagles – Little Liza Jane

15. Clifton Chenier and His Band – Ay-Tete Fee

16. Skip James – Hard Time Killing Floor Blues

17. George Lewis New Orleans Jazz Band – Weary Blues

18. Bessie Jones – Yonder Come Day

19. Joseph Spence – We Will Understand It Better By And By

20. Dirty Dozen Brass Band – Best Of All

CD 2

1. Cedric Burnside – Step In

2. Amythyst Kiah – Pretty Polly

3. Lonnie Johnson and Elmer Snowden – St. Louis Blues

4. Leyla McCalla – Money Is King

5. Dom Flemons – Polly Put The Kettle On

6. Taj Mahal and Keb’ Mo’ – Diving Duck Blues

7. Boozoo Chavis – Crying Blues

8. Campbell Brothers – Morning Train

9. John Lee Hooker – When I Lay My Burden Down

10. Lesley Riddle – Titanic

11. Professor Longhair – Go To The Mardi Gras

12. Mississippi John Hurt – Candy Man

13. Jesse Fuller – San Francisco Bay Blues

14. Odetta – Special Delivery Blues

15. John Jackson – Step It Up And Go

16. Tuts Washington – Arkansas Blues

17. Rev. Gary Davis – Lo, I Will Be With You Always

18. Inmate named Peter – Ups On The Farm

19. Cephas & Wiggins – John Henry

20. Sweet Honey in the Rock – Study War No More

* previously unreleased

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