Blind Willie Johnson/Tommy Johnson
Johnson & Johnson
Blind Willie Johnson: The Complete Blind Willie Johnson (Columbia/Legacy '93)
Between 1927 and 1930, in his early thirties and probably his prime, the Texas-based Johnson applied his gravelly voice and dexterous bottleneck to 30 gospel sides. On 19 of these he was accompanied by a female singer, usually his first wife Willie Harris, and in a sense lyrics and melodies are rendered superfluous by the sound of his gruff false bass shadowed and set right by a simpatico soprano: a sane, haunting aural image of suffering and succor that's hard to get too much of. But most of the songs are at least solid in themselves, and refreshingly unfamiliar unless Johnson planted the seed of their renown, as he did with "Motherless Children," "If I Had My Way," "John the Revelator," and the indomitable "Praise God I'm Satisfied." Like most gospel, they value melodic flow and rhythmic momentum more than the Delta blues other Johnsons purveyed. I'm not going to say they rock. But you might. A
Tommy Johnson: Essential Blues Masters (Goldenlane '09)
This Johnson is a Delta legend best appreciated by blues aesthetes like the late great Robert Palmer‑-who hears, for instance, "a slippery, danceable swing" in guitar accompaniments others account regionally generic. Johnson messed with your woman, drank Sterno for breakfast, and claimed meetings at the crossroads with you-know-who. But he only recorded for two years of his 1896-1956 lifespan. Like most collections available, this one preserves 17 tracks and 13 songs, five of which I have now removed from my iPod for reasons of distressed audio, compositional shortfall, or (usually) both. I've also banished three alternate versions, although I kept both scratchy "Black Mare Blues" just to hear New Orleans's Nehi Boys kick in their piano and clarinet, which do Johnson a lot more good than you-know-who. As I hear it, he has two drop-dead classics in his kit: the indelible "Big Road Blues" and the clarion "Cool Drink of Water Blues." The frailing "Maggie Campbell Blues" and the confessional "Canned Heat Blues" are close behind, and the rowdy-to-miserable likes of "Big Fat Mamma Blues" and "Lonesome Home Blues" fill in the blanks. I saved serious bucks by purchasing this iteration as a download. It also includes a posthumously electrified band version of "Canned Heat Blues" designated "an abomination" by the one blues aesthete on the interweb to acknowledge its existence. Personally, I welcome it as a hint of what might have been. B PLUS
Final note: Thumbs-up for Ryan's last post. I thought Beak and Claw was great, too.
And re: Frank O indirectly since I've had other interests at the momo -- Heard Russell Thompkins, Jr. honor someone for making him feel brand new yesterday again and was reminded that sweet soul with a dollop of conviction has always been an aural treat.
"those sound like Milo's objections to me personally"
No, objections to the electronic ghost who represents you online. With any luck, I will never have to object to you in person.
Oh yeah sharpsm, I never complain about that. Like, ever. FWIW though, even though I bitch about it to an almost cartoonish degree, I think the "I can't/won't tell the difference between Xgau's tastes and mine" mindset really only applies to a small (but occasionally quite vocal) minority of regulars here
(EDIT: I'm kind of curious as to *when* you got your @ss handed to you after decrying EW's clone-like tendencies - you'd think I'd remember that)
I don't think it's necessarily wrong to hope for an A+ for an album. If you love a record, you're going to hope someone who's opinion you respect will love it too, and you hope s/he will point out something you haven't noticed yourself or illuminate it in some other way - and as Ryan says, you're likely to get that from our host, which is why many of us are here, I suspect. I haven't listened to Channel Orange as much or as attentively as some other Witnesses, but I am enjoying it so far.
And best of luck to Irene for tomorrow.
about the blogger
Starting in 1967, Robert Christgau has covered popular music for The Village Voice, Esquire, Blender, Playboy, Rolling Stone, and many other publications. He teaches in New York University's Clive Davis Department of Recorded Music, maintains a comprehensive website at robertchristgau.com, and has published five books based on his journalism. He has written for MSN Music since 2006.