Blind Willie Johnson: I Know His Blood Can Make Me Whole (1927)

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Blind Willie Johnson: I Know His Blood Can Make Me Whole (1927)

Last year as part of a short series on blues artists we profiled the remarkable Blind Willie Johnson whose music is out there in the endless cosmos on board Voyager 1.

Johnson possessed an astonishing voice, full of the pains of sin, the hope for redemption and an earthiness which seemed to come from the soil beneath his feet.

The piece -- one of only a couple of dozen songs he recorded -- is one of his best known, as much for his slide guitar playing as how he conveys the sentiment.

It is also just one of  25 similarly spiritual blues songs on the just released Rough Guide to Gospel Blues (through Southbound) which includes equally fine and powerful material by Mississippi John Hurt, Bukka White, Rev Gary Davis, Blind Boy Fuller, Charlie Patton, Memphis Minnie, Bessie Smith and others.

510IVRipONLLotta people going by the appelation "Blind . . ."

There are songs which don't often get an airing here (Mother McCollum's Jesus is My Air O-Pane and Henry Thomas' Jonah in the Wilderness) alongside more familiar pieces (Patton's Jesus is a Dying Bed Maker, Skip James' Be Ready When He Comes).

There is a heartfelt truth in these songs and sentiments (even if some of the singers admitted to be backslidin' sinners) and, as the liner notes say, there is a very thin line separating the Lord's song and the Devil's music. 

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