Album Chart of 1952

<1951 1953>

  • This chart features albums released in 1952 and is limited to all of the albums in my collection which have “A-list” status.
  • Elsewhere, the Albums released in 1952 page shows the full range of albums in this sites' database, including the “B-list” records.


Despite the insane cold-war paranoia of the period, the “lefties” associated with the folk music scene continued to build strong underground roots, defying blatant media blackouts and discrimination.

Acoustic Folk songs were mostly heard in coffee houses, private parties, open-air concerts, hootenannies, and at college-campus concerts. The arrival of the LP allowed further opportunities and, in 1952, Folkways Records released the Anthology of American Folk Music, compiled by anthropologist and experimental film maker Harry Smith. The Anthology, spread over 6 LPs, featured 84 songs by traditional country and blues artists, initially recorded between 1927 and 1932, and was credited with making a large amount of pre-War material accessible to younger musicians.

Jean Ritchie (pictured in 1950, aged 27) chose the perfect time to release her first album, showcasing no less than 16 songs. As a traditional folk artist she was the real deal, with both parents having been part of the “great ballad-singing families” of Kentucky.

The Folk Music crowd was growing. Several years down the line, these records would have a big impact on Bob Dylan. And he would have a big impact on every cat in the zoo. And so it goes, and so it goes…

The Jukebox Rebel

TJR says:

6.74 “Good”

Back in the first decade of the 20th century, British scholar Cecil J. Sharp famously declared the traditional English ballad a “moribund” art form. Back then, he hadn't reckoned on America’s southern Appalachian Mountains where, as he personally discovered in the 1910s, a rich and thriving tradition of ballad-singing was still thriving. There he met two of Jean Ritchie's elder sisters, who were able to help him with his collecting. “English folk songs from the southern Appalachians, collected by Cecil J. Sharp; comprising two hundred and seventy-four songs and ballads with nine hundred and sixty-eight tunes, including thirty-nine tunes contributed by Olive Dame Campbell, edited by Maud Karpeles” was published in 1917!

Here, in the middle of the century, Jean continues to confound Cecil's earlier gloom. On her debut album, she shares some of her favourite “story songs” of murder and romance. There are wondrous tremors… infectious whistlers… barking tales of halloween madness… and an Appalachian dulcimer plucked in minor key empathy with tales of life, love and loss. 3 songs are sung a capella. The album is completely charming, even in amongst the dark tales. Bob Dylan thought so too and would remember “Old Virginny” (a seventeenth century song of English origin) for his “Man of Constant Sorrow”. Kenneth Goldstein's liner notes are excellent:

In Jean Ritchie, we have the personification of one of these 'great' tradition bearers. The youngest number of the famous "Singing Ritchies of Kentucky", Jean is recognized as a highly talented singer not only in her own community, but has become the best known traditional singer in America. This is no mean feat in a nation where there is a sharp cleavage between the “natural” rural native and the “sophisticated” urbanite, the “real”-and-simple and the phony-and-brash, the relaxed-and-unselfconscious and the affected-and-pretentious. That Jean has been widely proclaimed by audiences on both sides of the vast socio-psychological barrier is perhaps the finest testament to her “greatness” as a folksinger.

Hers is one of the largest repertories of any singer in America; her singing style is the finest representative of what may be broadly referred to as the “southern white” mountain style; and her performances, whether of ballads or songs, are enthralling, attention-demanding, and engrossing. And all of these are perhaps found in this recording. Today, when a collector finds someone who knows three or four of these ballads, he is apt to turn somersaults; to find as many as twenty in an entire state would be a major collecting experience. So, when finding one singer who has that number in her repertory it is a near-world-shaking occurrence. But Jean's repertory of these ballads is not to be congratulated merely for its size-for both her texts and tunes are superb examples of their kind. And in Jean's performance of them we are treated to one of the great experiences of ballad listening. We should be grateful for the invention and perfection of the tape recorder and long-playing phonograph record for they give us an opportunity to bring this experience into our living-rooms; it is the next best thing to seeing her perform these ballads.

Cecil Sharp would have been thrilled to know the old art form was alive and well.

The Jukebox Rebel

TJR says:

6.31 “Decent enough”

10" LP, thought to have had a low-key issue in 1952, and a higher profile 12" LP re-issue in 1963. Not to be confused (as it often is) with the NYC 1953 sessions for Elektra which were compiled as "Sonny Terry And His Mouth Harp" (Riverside 12 644) a year later. Having said that, the recording source for this Stinson LP seems to create a bit of confusion all of its own. The liner notes suggest they are 1940s recordings and several of the tracks do appear on the Document CD "Sonny Terry: Complete Recorded Works In Chronological Order, Vol. 2 (1944-1949)". I’ve also seen it written that the whole session was recorded for Stinson in NYC in 1952 by Kenneth Goldstein. Maybe the final answer would reveal a bit of both? Does anyone really know? Woody Guthrie sings on “Silver Fox Chase”, one of the 2 tracks that are definitely from a 1944 session at Asch. (“Silver Fox Chase” and “Gray Hound Blues” were renamed from their 1944 session working titles of “Fox Chase” and “Bus Blues”).

The Jukebox Rebel

TJR says:

5.88 “Average”

Compiling recordings from 1947 to 1951, the second album from the 29 year old was packed full of hits including three #1 smashes: “Lovesick Blues”, “Long Gone Lonesome Blues” and “Honky Tonk Blues”. “Moanin' the Blues” and “I'm a Long Gone Daddy” were also Top 10 hits, peaking at #2 and #6 respectively. “Lovesick Blues”, originally done by Elsie Clark away back in 1922, was the sole cover on the album. The album was loosely themed around “the blues” in the titular if not musical form. His singles and concerts were selling very well but Hank’s troubles were building up on him in 1952. After several years of back troubles, his use of self-sourced drug solutions were getting out of control. His divorce from first wife Audrey was finalized in July. On August 11, he was dismissed from the Grand Ole Opry for habitual drunkenness. Due to his excesses, Fred Rose had declared his intention to stop working with him. His performances were acclaimed when he wasn’t drunk, but despite the efforts of his work associates to get him to shows sober, his abuse of alcohol resulted in occasions when he did not appear or his performances were poor. In October, he married Billie Jean Jones, despite the fact that a woman named Bobbie Jett was carrying his child. Moanin’ the Blues? Who could blame him. This would prove to be the man’s final album statement in his lifetime.

The Jukebox Rebel

chart first published 22 Oct 2015; last edited 6 Dec 2015

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