Producer David Gledhill has just released a new single under the name of his new project Souls. Entitled I Wait For You the track has one key difference to the rest released this week (6 November), its creator has no idea who is singing on it. Having created the music, Gledhill unearthed overlooked vocals in the vast Alan Lomax collection of American Voices recorded in the 1920s and 30s. Having cleaned the first one up for his single, he's putting more from the archive of field recordings to music for 20 more tracks, but for now he's asks if anyone has any idea who his vocalist is?
Souls is a project that started in 2012 during a very dark period of my life. My wife of 15 years had just died and I needed something to fill my time in an attempt to dull the pain. After several years of caring for Tracey and spending less time doing music, I needed inspiration to help find my creativity again. I found myself trawling the Internet searching for inspiration. I eventually stumbled across a small record label who had been collating thousands of American Field Recordings. Most had been made by the legendary American musicologist Alan Lomax, reputed to have made over 90,000 of these recordings during his lifetime.
Looking back, I must have spent at least four hours every day, for several months, listening through thousands of these snippets, searching for a spark. Anything. Most were too crackly to work with or had other instrumentation on them, making it almost impossible to set to new music.
My breakthrough was one of Lomax’s recordings made in 1942 called Angel Child. The singer unknown. Such majesty and emotion in this woman’s voice. As soon I heard her singing “Love me baby, if it takes you all night long”, I knew I had to do something with it.
I spent weeks trying various methods to clean the vocals up. Whoever, the woman was, her tempo was understandably inconsistent, but I could hear a rhythm in there, it just had to be edited and reconstructed. Desperate to do the vocal justice, I composed three different versions. All good, but no magic. I then came up with a fourth version and realised it was what I was looking for.
Souls was born. Fast forward to late 2015, there are now over 20 songs made, each created by going through the same process with each acapella vocal recording. It has been therapy for me. Cathartic. Tracey was an extremely talented singer and musician, but being chronically ill always limited her chances to be heard. I think perhaps these mostly unknown singers I had discovered pulled at something deep inside of me. How could nobody know who they are? These voices are all extraordinary. Filled with Soul and full of emotion. I will be eternally grateful to them for helping me rediscover my passion.
After exhausting my own search online for “Unknown”, my ideal would be to travel to the US to not only attempt to discover who she is but also try unraveling some of the stories of other vocalists such as Ozella Jones, recorded in prison in 1938 singing "I’ve been a bad, bad girl, but please don’t kill me".
In the meantime I would love to know any information that anyone might have with regards to who the ‘unidentified singer’ who has provided the stunning melancholic lament. All we know of her to date is that the recording was almost certainly made by Alan Lomax during trips to Coahoma & Mississippi between 1941 and 1942. David Gledhill @iamgledhill
For more head to Soundcloud.com/soulsarehere.
Picture Kerry Harrison