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The Soul of a Man

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Album Review

Perhaps the greatest of all slide players (far more inventive even than Elmore James), and with the kind of voice that could be heard on Judgment Day, Blind Willie Johnson wasn't a blues musician, although his music had all the soul and anguish of the blues. Instead, he was possibly the most singular gospel singer, whose music could sound as vital on a Saturday night berating the sinners as it could on a Sunday morning in church. Of the 30 tracks he recorded in his lifetime (the last being in a 1930 session), every one has been anthologized many times. Perhaps the biggest question is why anyone interested enough to delve into his work would go for this over The Complete Blind Willie Johnson, which offers the remaining five cuts, or a budget compilation. Along with Robert Johnson and Charley Patton, he's part of the great trinity of Delta blues, blessed with the sublime ability to move the listener with both his singing and playing. At the same time, it's impossible not to recommend this album, because the music is excellent — however, if you're going to the music, buy the complete and have the full meal deal.


Born: 1902 in Marlin, TX

Genre: Blues

Years Active: '20s, '30s, '40s

Seminal gospel-blues artist Blind Willie Johnson is regarded as one of the greatest bottleneck slide guitarists. Yet the Texas street-corner evangelist is known as much for the his powerful and fervent gruff voice as he is for his ability as a guitarist. He most often sang in a rough, bass voice (only occasionally delivering in his natural tenor) with a volume meant to be heard over the sounds of the streets. Johnson recorded a total of 30 songs during a three-year period and many of these became...
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