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 at Elsewhere articles index

Eric Bibb: Get On Board (Telarc/Elite)

Eric Bibb: Get On Board (Telarc/Elite)

From the haunting opener Spirit I Am though to the country-blues reworking of the old Civil Rights song Stayed On Freedom which closes this exceptional collection, this 57-year old, Helsinki-based... > Read more

The Groundhogs: Blues Obituary 50th Anniversary (Fire/Southbound)

The Groundhogs: Blues Obituary 50th Anniversary (Fire/Southbound)

The Groundhogs are not a band you hear much, if ever, mentioned these days. They emerged at the start of the British blues boom in the early Sixties and – with singer/guitarist Tony McPhee as... > Read more

Elsewhere at Elsewhere

Bob Geldof: Which one do you want?

Bob Geldof: Which one do you want?

It is sometimes easy to forget -- and you suspect at times he does too -- but Bob Geldof is actually a musician. He was in musician mode when he came to town in April 91 because he'd released an... > Read more

GUEST WRITER GREG PARSLOE explains the addiction of stockcar racing

GUEST WRITER GREG PARSLOE explains the addiction of stockcar racing

I blame my father for my addiction. Week in, week out, he dragged us kids along to Waikaraka Park Speedway for “Stockies” on a Saturday night during the Seventies. At first it... > Read more