Earlier today, Peter Tork and Shoe Suede Blues issued their third studio effort, Relax Your Mind, as a digital download via CD Baby. (A physical compact disc release is coming shortly.) The album was inspired by American folk and blues musician Lead Belly, who was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988.
Peter's brother, Nick Thorkelson, features as a guest on Relax Your Mind, playing piano while also providing lead vocals on "He Never Said a Mumblin' Word" and "On a Monday." Thorkelson also composed "A Better World," a bonus track originally featured on the exclusive f.y.e. CD of The Monkees' 2016 album, Good Times!
Peter has released three other albums under the Shoe Suede Blues banner: Saved By The Blues (2003), Cambria Hotel (2007), and Step By Step (2013).
Below are Peter's liner notes as posted on CD Baby, where you can preview and download the album:
Huddie Ledbetter, known as Leadbelly, (or Lead Belly as his family prefers to spell the name), was a singer-guitarist of unusual power and authenticity. His legendary adventures and his collection of field hollers, chain gang songs, blues, children's ditties, and, yes, pop songs, brought him eventually to live and perform in and around New York City among a crowd of folk singers and minstrels of various stripes, including Pete Seeger, Burl Ives, Josh White, and, maybe most notably, Woody Guthrie.
My brother Nick and I grew up with Lead Belly records, and these songs have been a part of our musical lives and inspiration for us since we were in our early teens. When we get together, whether family gatherings or performances, we still play Lead Belly songs.
I dived into the Lead Belly archives this year picking out favorites for a tribute CD with Shoe Suede Blues, and we even got to include Nick for a day during our recording. That's him, in case you couldn't tell, singing “On a Monday” and “He Never Said a Mumblin' Word,” and on keys throughout; any piano and organ you hear is him.
As I worked on the demos for the songs, I paid a lot of attention to the rhythm. So in some cases songs of hardship, heartbreak, mayhem, and death are pretty upbeat. Incidentally, on one of Lead Belly’s standards, “Irene,” we think we’ve done something original. None of the band members had heard, or even heard of, reggae in three quarter time.
I'm sorry I couldn't include more Lead Belly songs. There are so many he wrote or collected and arranged, and so many stories he could tell, that there will never be a satisfactory short collection. He was a giant in the folk and blues world.