Though nearly forgotten today - or regarded as primarily a "folk" singer (but by their very nature, aren’t blues, country and bluegrass ALL forms of "folk" music?), Josh White was a very popular blues singer, songwriter and guitarist in the 30s and 40s. The Golden Gate Quartet is virtually an American institution in the realm of Gospel Music. On December 18-21, 1940 - a time when nearly all music that WASN’T classical or Broadway musicals was not considered to be "serious" music - a concert was held at the Coolidge Auditorium of the Library of Congress. This concert presented a mix of the sacred and the secular, of blues songs and gospel songs, performed by The Golden Gate Quartet and Josh White, with brief, dignified explanatory commentaries prefacing some of the songs. Freedom is more than merely a "recording" of these performances - it is an Audio Documentary of America in Song, including some "background" on the social contexts that spawned much of this music.
It’d be pointless to go into lots ‘n’ lots of detail - that’d spoil the fun of discovery - but you, Dear Reader, need to know what you’re paying for. The GG Quartet, aside from their hearty, rhythmic harmony singing, show you the "blueprint" for the basic "band" as we know it: a lead voice carries/swings the melody while interlocking voices make with That Rhythm and Those Neat Embellishments. Josh White has a BIG, mellow storytelling voice (and picked acoustic guitar - also a storyteller) in the vein of Leadbelly, Big Joe Williams and Mississippi John Hurt (blues fellows who were also embraced by the American folk scene), but a bit smoother, with a bit of a crooner’s touch.
The digitally remastered sound is a bit crackly in spots but otherwise crisp and clear. You get 23 tracks in 60 minutes with extensive deluxe liner notes, and if I ran the country, I’d see that this disc was distributed to EVERY public and private school child, grades 2-12. It’s THAT essential.