Lead Belly Fest, Royal Albert Hall, review: Still proud and strong after all these years

Lead Belly died in 1949 but continues to cast a long shadow over successive generations of performers

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The Independent Culture

The seminal blues and folk musician who put the Led Zeppelin in ''Gallows Pole'' – superbly revived by US vocalist Dana Fuchs halfway through this 3 hour+ event – Lead Belly died in 1949 but continues to cast a long shadow over successive generations of performers like Nirvana who have reinterpreted the material he recorded before and after being released from prison in the mid-1930s.

Opening a rewarding second half, Billy Bragg joined the dots between ''Rock Island Line'', the infectious tune revived by Lonnie Donegan that sparked off the skiffle craze of the mid-1950s in Britain, and the Fab Four's ''Love Me Do'', a convenient shorthand and apt summary of Huddie Ledbetter's influence and legacy. Indeed, Eric Bibb's moving version of the protest song ''Bourgeois Blues'' demonstrated how visionary Lead Belly's writing was, before Walter Trout made an emotional comeback after his successful liver transplant.

The participation of Josh White Jr and Tom Paley of the New Lost City Ramblers – for a particularly inspired ''On Monday'' – added a personal dimension to the proceedings since both had met Lead Belly. Eric Burdon, brooding through the Animals worldwide hit ''The House Of The Rising Sun'', Paul Jones of Manfred Mann fame, blowing a mean harmonica at the behest of Van Morrison, brought the evening to a fittingly stellar conclusion.

Channelling the 'King of the 12 string-guitar', Sir Van sang a gorgeous ''Astral Weeks'', the apposite ''Cleaning Windows'' and ''Midnight Special'' before leading a moving finale of ''Goodnight Irene'' featuring the voice its originator, still proud and strong after all these years.

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