Monday, June 28, 2010

The Complete Blind Willie Johnson (1993)

(As published in Brian Q. Newcomb's Syndiacte ... )

Blind Willie Johnson
The Complete Blind Willie Johnson

Blinded at seven and dead before fifty, Blind Willie Johnson lived the quintessentially hard life of a street-singing gospel-bluesman. From 1927 to 1930, he recorded thirty songs that comprise his entire legendary legacy, and this two-disc set gathers them all. With the exception of "When the War Was On," a WW I narrative, the music reflects the rich tradition of spirituals, hymns, and revival songs unique to the South in general and Johnson's native Texas in particular--none of which would matter today if Johnson's singular performing style hadn't transformed them from items of historical interest into living testaments of faith. Over his eloquently lyrical slide guitar, Johnson sang in an intense, gravelly growl that brooked neither sentimentality nor pretense and that sounds at times, even by hard-gospel standards, downright shocking. Some of these tracks sound less than inspired, but many of them--especially "God Don't Never Change," "Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground," "It's Nobody's Fault but Mine," and "Lord, I Can't Just Keep from Crying"--stand among the most powerful acoustic music, gospel or otherwise, ever recorded.

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