Week beginning: ... Thursday 13th June 2024

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Back to where it all began ... It all started in a small town bar in Louisiana; it was like travelling back in time, dusty, rickety tables, chairs, and a bare wooden floor. Sat on a little platform was a lady and a guy with a guitar, and then the lady began to sing the blues. I could have closed my eyes, although I didn’t realise it at the time, I could have been listening to Ma Rainey or Bessie Smith. Quietly listening, and with encouragement from others we joined with the ‘Tell us your story’...

We knew and felt the songs were telling us of a deep sadness, borne of a deprivation beyond our comprehension. I was listening to the 'Blues' long before that, but never really understood, until then, what was meant by 'Feeling the Blues' ... Each time I produce ‘Backtracking’ I try to show my love and respect for the people and the lives these songs are about, this deprivation, sadness and misery. We are honouring them by keeping their presence and their simple music alive and well.

Each time, we are taking a journey back in time to the abomination of slavery, the depth of the spirituals and of course the expressive blues from all those years ago. Our research and journey since that day has been a discovery of the ‘Blues’ that never ends, of a culture and history that has faded in the mists of time, but remains for us to find. We're honoured and privileged to share with you this great music and its history, back a hundred years and beyond, a genre so rich, so vast so diverse and so real.

Now based in Somerset (UK) What started all those years ago with a handful of blues tracks, a few faded photographs and books has grown exponentially with the help of our good friends, Alan, Terry and Graham, the ‘Doc’ even my dear late cousin Len (Houston) the never ending patience of Pam and so many people from around the world, far too many to mention, Backtracking has become a library of music and resources so vast it’s often difficult to keep track of it all, as it continues to grow.

Thank you for listening to ‘Backtracking’ from here in the UK. At PD Productions, we extend our best wishes to you all.
David – PD Productions (UK)

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Backtracking, to where it all began ... At PD Productions, our research and journey of discovery never ends, simply because the culture of the blues never ends. We're honoured and privileged to share the music within the genre of the Blues back in time a hundred years and beyond, a genre so vast and so diverse.

So many people from around the world have contributed to our research, and indeed, our library of music, far too many to mention by name. Released every Friday, we invite you to join Backtracking, the blue time machine as we go back to the Roots of the Blues, back, to where it all began.
Featured on Backtracking ..
  • The lady sings the blues.
  • Blues on the Bayou.
  • Gospel blues train.
  • Featured artist of the week.
  • Spirituals – The blues connection.
  • Prison work songs.
  • Myths and Legends of the blues.
    Download the latest Backtracking
    Backtracking archive (Download)
    Blues Research resources (Links / articles)

Featured artist of the week .... Elizabeth (Libba) Cotten

Elizabeth 'Libba' Cotten (1895-1987), best known for her timeless song Freight Train, built her musical legacy on a firm foundation of late 19th- and early 20th-century African-American instrumental traditions. Through her song writing, her quietly commanding personality, and her unique left-handed guitar and banjo styles, she inspired and influenced generations of younger artists.

Born in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, Elizabeth taught herself how to play the banjo and guitar at an early age. Although forbidden to do so, she often borrowed her brother's instruments when he was away, reversing the banjo and guitar to make them easier to play left-handed. When she finally saved just $3.75 she purchased her own guitar

While working at a department store in Washington, D.C., Libba found and returned a very young and lost Peggy Seeger to her mother, Ruth Crawford Seeger. A month later, Cotten began work in the household of the famous folk-singing Seeger family.

The Seeger home was an amazing place for Libba to have landed entirely by accident. Ruth Crawford Seeger was a noted composer and music teacher while her husband, A few years passed before Peggy discovered Elizabeth playing the family's gut-stringed guitar. Libba apologised for playing the instrument without asking, but Peggy was astonished by what she heard.

Thanks largely to Mike Seeger's early recordings of her work, By 1958, at the age of sixty-two, Libba had recorded her first album,  including the now well-recorded tune "Freight Train," penned by Elizabeth when she was only twelve
Cotten's legacy lives on not only in her own recordings but also in the many artists who continue to play her work. The Grateful Dead produced several renditions of "Oh, Babe, It Ain't No Lie," Bob Dylan covered the ever-popular "Shake Sugaree," and "Freight Train" continues as a well-loved and recorded tune played by Mike Seeger, Taj Mahal, and Peter, Paul, and Mary, to name a few. Libba's recordings.

    Elizabeth (Libba) Cotten - When I'm Gone
    Download featured artist track of the week
    Next time ... Blind Boy Fuller
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