Impressively, this compelling biographical novel makes the life of the early 20th-century folk and blues musician known as Leadbelly interesting—even to readers who are not fans of his music—without sugarcoating the singer's unsavory character and life. Addeo and Garvin take the reader from the birth of Huddie William Ledbetter in Louisiana in 1888 to his death in New York City in 1949. At an early age, Leadbelly develops a taste for, and proficiency in, making music, all the while witnessing the racism of the American South. Sexually precocious, a 15-year-old Leadbelly impregnates a girlfriend, the first of many lapses, most of which were much more severe. Although his temper leads him to numerous criminal convictions for violent offenses, he maintains that his crimes were the fault of his victims. The arc of Leadbelly's life, which includes his two releases from prison under unusual circumstances, is indeed stranger than fiction, and the authors' workmanlike prose keeps things flowing smoothly.