Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Hellhound on my Trail

On Friday Nov. 23, 1936, a young African-American entered the Blue Bonnet Hotel in San Antonio, Tx, guitar in hand. Brunswick Records had set up an impormptu recording studio there, and the young man set up facing the wall, and proceeded to cut 16 tracks over the next 3 days. What passed between the man, the wall, and the microphone would echo down over 70 years and through countless imaginations.
The young man in question was Robert Johnson, probably the most infamous of the blues musicians. Much has been made of his mythical deal with the devil, at the crossroads at midnight, but his recorded legacy stands up, without hype or myth-making. His guitar chugs like a freight train, predicting the chicago blues sound, and his slide-playing sighs, slinks and soars, planted in the fertile soil of his Delta roots. His voice growlsl, keens in a sweet falsetto; ringing out, clear and pure. He is the crossroads, between the past of his lesser-known influences like Son House, Charley Patton, and Willie Brown, and the shape of things to come.
I've listened to these 27 sides so many times in my young adult life, mystified with its spooky ambience, and it continues to surprise and delight every time. The twisted, doomed romance of 'Kind Hearted Woman' and 'Come on in my Kitchen', and the infernal glow of 'Hell Hound on my Trail' and 'Me and the Devil Blues,' are personal favorites.
Above all else, here was a mean who lived and died for his music. Notoriously laughed off stage by Son House and Willie Brown, he returned a scant 2 years later, and blew everybody's heads' off. He travelled the South, the Midwest, and even the East Coast, as itinerant musician, only to supposedly be poisoned by a jealous husband with a tainted bottle of whiskey. These 41 tracks are a treasure trove, containing the essence of everything that is the blues. If you've never heard this, i highly recommend you check this out; and if you have, let this serve as a reminder of how fresh and vital and inspiring this music can be. disc 1 + ++ disc 2

1 comment:

  1. I wanted to say thank you for the comment you left on Digital Meltd0wn. I left a comment in response. You have a nice blog here also. I'm downloading the Blue Ridge Mountain Music collection right now. Thank you once again. Take care.