Valerie June and Dan Zanes - "Take This Hammer" (audio) (premiere)

by Sarah Zupko

18 August 2017

Dan Zanes teams up with Valerie June on the brilliant remake of a 1942 Lead Belly single.
Photo: Anna Zanes 

Acclaimed family music artist Dan Zanes has long harbored a love for the incomparable music of the legendary Lead Belly. Zanes discovered Lead Belly’s music at the age of seven after acquiring his first library card and checking out a record of his. Now Zanes has turned that life-long affection for the artist into an exciting new project Lead Belly, Baby! which features new versions of Lead Belly’s classic country blues/folk tunes performed by Zanes with a raft of guests, including Chuck D., Billy Bragg, Aloe Blacc, and Valerie June.
The new album releases August 25th via Smithsonian Folkways, and we’ve already heard Billy Bragg and Zanes get their groove on in “Rock Island Line”. Today we have another brilliant album track as the sublime Americana artist Valerie June teams with Zanes on “Take This Hammer”, which was a single Lead Belly released in 1942 and is a version of the tune “Nine-Pound Hammer”.

Dan Zanes tells PopMatters that he loved June’s music the first time he heard it. Zanes says, “we met backstage at a Blind Boys of Alabama concert in New York, and she told me she’d bought a stack of my old sea music song books at a used bookstore in Brooklyn. About a year later we were on the same bill at the Kennedy Center to honor Lead Belly on his 125th birthday. Valerie was the first guest to sign on to this record. We sat around and jammed, told a few stories, and sang the song. There’s not much to say when working with Valerie; she’s already deep into the music.”

1. More Yet (feat. Shareef Swindell)
2. Rock Island Line (feat. Billy Bragg)
3. Ha-Ha This-A-Way (feat. Tamar Kali)
4. Julie Ann Johnson (feat. Jendog Lonewolf)
5. Bring Me Little Water, Sylvie (feat. Madame Marie Jean Laurent & Ceddyjay)
6. Polly Wee (feat. Father Goose and Little Goose)
7. Boll Weevil (feat. Aloe Blacc and Pauline Jean)
8. New York City (feat. Claudia Eliaza)
9. Skip to My Lou (feat. Chuck D. and Memphis Jelks)
10. Take This Hammer (feat. Valerie June)
11. Cotton Fields (feat. Sonia de los Santos, Elena Moon Park, & José Joaquin Garcia)
12. Red Bird (feat. Ashley Phillips)
13. Whoa Back Buck (feat. Donald Saaf with Isak and Ole)
14. Stewball (feat. Marley Reedy)
15. Relax Your Mind (feat. Neha Jiwrajka)

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