Leadbelly – Alabama Bound (1990)
This is my favourite set of Leadbelly songs, if only because he’s backed by a kick-ass gospel quartet on half the tracks.
Roscoe Holcomb – The High Lonesome Sound (1998)
Roscoe Holcomb played a mean banjo and sang in a strained, freakishly high voice. Drawing from a vast and varied repertoire of traditional tunes, he sang and played with wild abandon – like a man possessed.
John Jacob Niles – The Tradition Years: I Wonder As I Wander (1958)
I’m going to let this awesome Henry Miller quote do the talking for me here:
"Over coffee and liqueurs we would sometimes listen to John Jacob Niles' recordings. Our favorite was 'I Wonder As I Wander,' sung in a clear, high-pitched voice with a quaver and a modality all his own. The metallic clang of his dulcimer never failed to produce ecstasy. He had a voice which summoned memories of Arthur, Merlin, Guinevere. There was something of the Druid in him. Like a psalmodist, he intoned his verses in an ethereal chant which the angels carried aloft to the Glory seat. When he sang of Jesus, Mary and Joseph they became living presences. A sweep of the hand and the dulcimer gave forth magical sounds which caused the stars to gleam more brightly, which peopled the hills and meadows with silvery figures and made the brooks to babble like infants. We would sit there long after his voice had faded out, talking of Kentucky where he was born, talking of the Blue Ridge mountains and the folk from Arkansas... " -- Henry Miller, Plexus, pp. 366-367.
Anne Briggs – A Collection (1999)
A compilation of tracks recorded between 1963 and 1971. Traditional British songs, sung unaccompanied. It can get a little samey after a while, but the melodies are beautiful.