The Title of this album defines a socio-economic group of people as well as a genre of traditional music. People who populate urban areas are generally stereotyped as consumers of popular culture. Growing up in Kansas City during the sixties and seventies I was exposed to Jazz, Blues, R&B, Soul, and Funk music. Northern cities during this period also served as a final stopping place for African Americans fleeing the south to find better lives and opportunities. In my Kansas City neighborhood there were always new kids to play with from Mississippi, Arkansas, Texas, and Oklahoma. This constant migration always insured that in our speech patterns, music, foods, worship, and children's games, folk elements from the Deep South were planted and were thriving in urban America. This mix of urban and traditional African American culture inspired me to use the term "Urbanfolk” to describe it.
Track # 1 Take this Hammer
This a traditional African American work song originally found in one of the Alan Lomax Collections. It is said to be one of the first work songs, which were unaccompanied improvised vocal music, to become part of standard blues repertoire. This song to me serves as a bookmark in African American culture between rural and urban culture
Track # 2 the Journey
This is an original song based on the cowboy song Buffalo Skinners.
This is a song that I use in my "I've Seen Rivers” presentation. It is about York, William Clark's slave. Despite all that is said and written about York, all we know for sure is what is contained in the Journals of Lewis and Clark. I took the scenarios about York from the Journals and composed this song.
Track # 3 Come Back To Jackson
Come back to Jackson is a song I wrote after coming across letters that a slave fighting in the civil war wrote to his wife back on the plantation. He writes her to say that the war is going to be over, we will be free, and I will build you a house. She writes him back to inform him that her first husband was sold away from her twenty years ago. She believes in the eyes of God that is her real husband and she is devoted to finding him. This is a song I used in my presentation "Letters From Slaves"
Track # 4 Drinking Gourd
This is an original arrangement of the slave song Follow the Drinking Gourd. This song and the folklore surrounding it has been standard repertoire for African American secular and sacred music from the time the Fisk Jubilee Choir popularized the spiritual as serious music. Like most of the traditional songs I perform, I modernize the arrangements. I feel the song and the story behind it are more important to younger audiences than the traditional arrangement. It also reflects who I am as an artist and illustrates some of my influences
Track # 5 Rosie
This is an original song inspired by the slave song Poor Rosey. The original was a work song that could be changed depending on the nature of the work that was accompanying the singing. This is a song that I use in my presentations with children as a rowing song
Track # 6 Last Time That I saw You
This is also a song I use in my "Letters From Slaves " presentation. It is an original song inspired by letters that slaves wrote to one another
Track # 7 John Hardy
This is a traditional song about a Black Cowboy from West Virginia. I use it in my presentation "From The Plantation to The Frontier " Although the "Cowboy" era was said to of lasted only about twenty years, African Americans began the trek out west to escape slavery. From York going out with the Journey Of Discovery in 1804 to the aging former slave Jim Beckwith still working as a guide to the United States army well into the 1870's , to the exploits of the well known Black cowboys who made the 101 Ranch in Oklahoma famous in 20th century.
Track # 8 One Meatball
This is a song of dubious origin. It has been claimed as an ivy league school song, an Italian operatic theme or a folk song popular during the Harlem Renaissance. The African American folk blues musician Josh White Popularized the song. It is a song that I use in my presentation “Blues in Concert” In which I introduce audiences to the artists and events from 1917-1940 known as the Harlem Renaissance
Track # 9 Take Time
This is an original arrangement of a West African song that I had been singing for quite some time. When I sang it at a party, a friend who had been in the Peace Corps in Liberia remembered the phase "Take Time My Friend” as a parting gesture as if saying good-bye. I use it in children's programs to illustrate where African American culture came from and children like to sing along on the different parts of the song.
Track # 10 the Sweets of Liberty
This is an Anti Slavery poem written by William Wells Brown and printed in The Sacred Harp. The arrangement here is my own. It is a song that I use in "I've Seen Rivers” as York's voice as he is begging William Clark to free him.
Lem sheppard Guitar, Vocals,
Lem Sheppard's concerts are an eclectic blend of contemporary folk, blues and history.
Lemuel Sheppard has toured nationally for over twenty years, including a performance at The Kennedy Center in 2000. He has also performed in Brazil and South Africa.
His first performances were under the mentorship of Dr. Eva Jessey, most noted as the choral director for the folk opera "Porgy and Bess" by George Gershwin.
The US Embassy referred to Lemuel as “The perfect touring artist, Talented, flexible, knowledgeable of his own culture and interested in others."
The Eisteddfod International Music Festival in South Africa referred to Lemuel as “An example in inter-cultural relations"
Recently Lemuel was inducted in the Oklahoma blues hall of fame, he composed and performed the sound track to the award winning PBS documentary "Black, White & Brown" on the 50th anniversary of the Brown vs. The Topeka Board of Education.
Lemuel's New CD, "Urbanfolk" was featured on NPR online contemporary music show, Open Mic. Lemuel has been touring the United States performing over 200 shows in as many cities