Monday, January 27, 2020

Blind Willie Johnson - The Complete

While I already have Johnson's Dark Was the Night compilation, I am a sucker for "complete recordings" comps and picked up this one at a discounted price, and it is well worth it!

Willie Johnson was imbued with incredibly gruff but powerfully emotional vocals and provided his own fine slide guitar accompaniment that unfortunately is all too often buried in the mix due to the live recording techniques of the time. But, the songs are strong and impassioned, gospel tinged and occasionally accompanied by a female singer (usually one of his wives, Willie B. Harris), offsetting the rawness of Johnson's voice. At times, he is truly haunting, as in the wordless "Dark Is the Night", sometimes uplifting, as in "Let Your Light Shine On Me", sometimes sorrowful ("Motherless Children Have a Hard Time") and always spiritual ("Jesus Make Up my Dying Bed", Bye and Bye I'm Going to See the King", as examples).

You'll recognize some numbers that have been covered famously, such as "It's Nobody's Fault But Mine", "Lord I Just Can't Keep From Crying", "The Soul of Man", "If I Had My Way" and plenty of others. This is 30 tracks of raw, intimate, minimalist gospel blues from this Texas master that also includes a comprehensive booklet with an overview of Willie's life along with detailed song listings, personnel and anecdotes. Fantastic package!