'Tangle Eye is a collection of remixes of these recordings put together by established...
Sam Menter 2004
Between the 1940s and 1960s, the late Alan Lomax made numerous field recordings in the American South, the best of which were released on the on the Rounder label as the Southern Journey Series.
You might already have heard songs from this captivating acapella collection in the films Oh Brother Where Art Thou and The General's Daughter or sampled on Moby's Natural Blues which used Vera Ward Hall's "Trouble So Hard".
Tangle Eye is a collection of remixes of these recordings put together by established US producers Scott Billington and Steve Reynolds. Working in a variety of styles, they've built entire backing tracks around the original vocal recordings. In a bid to make these tracks sympathetic to the vocals, they've pulled in a host of established and new US musicians who, thankfully, are given plenty of space to display their talents.
On the rock steady reggae of"Chantey" (one of the standout tracks of the album), Troy Trombone Shorty Andrews and James Martin weave in and out with assured trombone/trumpet and tenor solos that wouldn't sound out of place on a Jazz Jamaica recording. On "Drowned", Rob Icke's virtuoso dobro playing adds a new dimension to the original vocal.
However, some of the mixes definitely work better than others. "Soldier" seemeda bit too housey for my ear although as it progressedI found myself getting hooked on Dave Crawford's rollicking blues piano. Maybe some tracks would have benefited from havinga live drum sound, butsomework really well with the programmed beats and loops. For instance, Holler combines an infectious double bass groove with a raw sounding 4/4 beat that should get even the most reticent dancer to their feet.
Despite the musicianship and meticulous production here, what really carries this album is the raw emotion of the vocals. When Ervin Webb and prisoners sing, "I'm going home oh lord", (I'm guessing they weren't) you can almost reach out and touch their pain. In spite ofknowingnothing of the cases,the voices alone seem reason enough to exonerate them of any crimes.
Despite the high artistic quality of the original Lomax acapella recordings, I've found that they don't necessarily encourage repeat listens.The best thing about this collection is that it makes the Lomax recordingsa joy to listen to.And there are enough different elements here to appeal to a broad range of tastes.