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The Complete Blind Willie Johnson

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Album Review

If you've never heard Blind Willie Johnson, you are in for one of the great, bone-chilling treats in music. Johnson played slide guitar and sang in a rasping, false bass that could freeze the blood. But no bluesman was he; this was gospel music of the highest order, full of emotion and heartfelt commitment. Of all the guitar-playing evangelists, Blind Willie Johnson may have been the very best. Though not related by bloodlines to Robert Johnson, comparisons in the emotional commitment of both men cannot be helped. This two-CD anthology collects everything known to exist, and that's a lot of stark, harrowing, emotional commitment no matter how you slice it. Not for the faint of heart, but hey, the good stuff never is.

Customer Reviews

If I Had My Way...

If I had my way I'd give everyone this album for free! I only discovered this truly great man and his work a few short months ago; now I'm making up for lost time. This album has everything you need from Mr. Johnson's catalog. His wifes singing may be a bit off key, but her sweet highs balance The Mans deep false-bass voice. The two play off of one another like hummingbirds on a cold morning. I think you'll find this album 'sweeter as the years roll by'....


I discovered this artist, quite literally, on accident. I was looking into Robert Johnson because of Eric Clapton's fine work, and it turns out that old Blind Willie played the same instrument. He lacks to pyrotechnic mechanics of Robert on the slide guitar, he more than makes up for in intensity. A lot of blues guitarists from this era wrote downright frivolous songs, but each one on here resonates with a passion and vitality that is hard to find anywhere in music. Particularly good are Mother's Children Have A Hard Time (even though his grammar is less than sterling - it should read 'Motherless'), Dark Was the Night, Let Your Light Shine On Me (which is more upbeat and accessible), and You're Gonna Need Somebody On Your Bond (which sounds a little bit like Tom Waites). It is, quite simply, a tragedy that someone of the artistic caliber has been largely forgotten, especially in light of the recent Blues revival brought on by O Brother Where Art Thou? and the complete recordings of Robert Johnson.

The most powerful music out there.

Willie Johnson is without a doubt the most powerful and passionate singer I have ever heard, and his music transcends the decades since it was recorded and the dated equipment it was recorded on. To say it's haunting is an understatement, but aside from haunting it is also very uplifting, and the vigor and faith in his voice and guitar playing easily outweighs his contemporaries. Don't take my word for it. His record was launched into space in 1977 on the Voyager. In the Company of Bach and Beethoven. Not bad company.


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...
Full Bio

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