Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Robert Johnson

If we didn't have these scratchy etchings it would have been necessary for someone to fake them. This is how the blues sound in the root of every imagination. Johnson was of an age with several still-surviving bluesmen - but his work, preserved from a moment in time in an anyway short life, supersedes all the journeymen traces the bulk of the recorded blues is every now and then heir to. The sessions had always carried with them the whiff of legend - when this set, augmenting the original releases ever so slightly, came out, it outsold every other record in America that same week. Johnson's guitar is as polyphonic as the wheels of a train, his voice as elemental as the wind; they pass the listener at an unbiddable distance and leave only the faintest trace, like steam on a window. This music is all about impermanency, which is possibly one reason why Johnson looks like a jaunty black tulip on the cover.