Various Artists: The Rough Guide to Delta Blues, Reborn and Remastered (Rough Guide/Southbound)

 |   |  1 min read

Hard Times Killin' Floor, by Skip James (1931)
Various Artists: The Rough Guide to Delta Blues, Reborn and Remastered (Rough Guide/Southbound)

Tommy Johnson is one of the more interesting figures in the shadowland of the Delta blues of the Twenties: he recorded fewer songs than the acclaimed Robert Johnson who was no relation (just 16 in '28 and '29) and recent research has suggested that Robert inherited the legend of his pact with the Devil at the Crossroads from Tommy who had made that claim.

Tommy Johnson was also quite some performer, a proto-Hendrix if you like, because he would play guitar behind his head and between his legs. He was also a gifted writer and an expressive singer, gave the name to the band Canned Heat (after his Canned Heat Blues about drinking ethanol!) and he was a hugely influential figure in the Southland.

Despite that small catalogue of recordings (he mistakenly believed he wasn't allowed to record any more) he continued to perform and teach up until his death in '56 at age 60.

Johnson is one of 25 seminal blues artists – alongside Bukka White, Skip James, Son House, Bo Carter, the Mississippi Sheiks, the Mississippi Moaner, Geeshie Wiley, Ruby Lacey, Memphis Minnie and Charlie Patton – on this useful collection which is an introduction to the acoustic blues out of Mississippi and Tennessee, much of which has the feel of pure country and rural life.

These are songs of pain, sex, faith, the Devil, fear, hard times, betrayal, jail time and much more which informed the lives of so many at that time.

And voices like those of Skip James, Son House, Ishman Bracey, Johnnie Templeand others are so powerful and distinctive they cut across the distant decades and channel pure emotions.

Liner notes are minimal but just bang this into your computer and start searching . . . the lives and stories will appear before your eyes and ears. 

Share It

Your Comments

post a comment

More from this section   Blues articles index

BO CARTER AND HIS RUDE BLUES: Putting more than just his pin in your cushion

BO CARTER AND HIS RUDE BLUES: Putting more than just his pin in your cushion

There are two peculiar and distinctive features about the career of bluesman Bo Carter (1893-1964). It's not that he sang rude, double-entendre songs – many blues artists did that... > Read more

C.W. Stoneking: King Hokum (Inertia)

C.W. Stoneking: King Hokum (Inertia)

Okay, this one had me stumped -- and increasingly impressed. The guy on the black'n'white cover sitting outside a clapboard shack is a round-faced thirty something white guy, but the guy singing... > Read more

Elsewhere at Elsewhere

THE FATE OF THE NU: Something old, new, borrowed and Blue Note

THE FATE OF THE NU: Something old, new, borrowed and Blue Note

Pity any movement that describes itself as “New . . .” or, worse, “the future”. By definition i is fated to an inevitable and humiliatingly early grave when the next... > Read more

EPs by Yasmin Brown

EPs by Yasmin Brown

With so many CDs commanding and demanding attention Elsewhere will run this occasional column by the informed and opinionated Yasmin Brown. She will scoop up some of those many EP releases, in... > Read more