Friday, August 26, 2016

Ten Questions With.....Eddie Turner

About ten years ago, I received a copy of a CD to review for Blues Bytes from an artist named Eddie Turner.  I didn't know very much about him.....okay, I didn't know anything about him at the time, but when I plugged in that CD, called The Turner Diaries, I had the urge to find out more.  Turner played the blues sure enough, but he mixed in healthy dose of funk, rock, world, and jazz.  He owed more than a nod to Hendrix in his guitar playing, but you could hear other influences as well, like Carlos Santana, Jeff Beck, Tommy Bolin, and even Ry Cooder.  It was an incredibly original and intense set that just stayed with me for a while.

I soon received a copy of his debut from 2005, Rise, which helped Turner earned a 2006 BMA nomination for Best New Artist, and it was equally potent, with Turner working through some dazzling original tunes and putting his own unique spin on some familiar favorites from Hendrix, Freddy King, and Johnny "Guitar" Watson.  By now, I had learned more about Turner and was astonished when I found out that he had never recorded as a frontman prior to Rise, which was such an accomplished and confident release.

In 2010, Turner released Miracles & Demons, another stellar set which consisted of all original material, and I do mean "original."  It was a great mix of blues, rock, and funk, with a bit of psychedelia thrown in for good measure.  Simply put, there's not anybody out there who plays the blues like Eddie Turner.

Turner was born in Cuba and raised in Chicago, where he picked up the guitar at the age of 12. By the mid 70's, he in Colorado, where he attended the University of Colorado and was playing with Tracy Nelson and Mother Earth.  Later, he played with the blues-rock band Zephyr and the Legendary 4-nikators.  He also took a sabbatical to sell real estate in Denver, before returning in the mid 90's to help for the Otis Taylor Band, serving as lead guitarist on five of Taylor's albums, including White African and Respect the Dead.

Turner's latest album is Naked...In Your Face, a live effort with the Trouble Twins.....fellow Denver resident Anna Lisa Hughes, who plays bass and sings on several cuts, and Canadian drummer Kelly Kruse.  Turner does six songs from his previous releases, and Hughes takes the mic for three songs.  All of the songs are fleshed out to six minutes or more and that really allows the Trouble Twins to give up the funk and Turner to put his incredible guitar skills on full display.  I promise this is one that you wish you had seen in person when you listen to it.

Turner also has a new studio album, yet to be titled, in the can and hopes to release it later this year.  He graciously agreed to sit down for Ten Questions with FBF and we are grateful that he took time out from his busy schedule to do so, so without further ado.......

Ten Questions With......Eddie Turner

Friday Blues Fix:  How would you describe your music?

Eddie Turner:  A strange form of vintage bluesy mid 70’s jazz indie rock

FBF:  As you grew up and developed into a musician, what artists influenced you as a singer, guitarist, and songwriter?

ET:  Well , to begin with, I never wanted to be a singer……I think i sound like a pampered frog ….but I was a fan of all singers from Johnny Mathis to Hendrix…of course  Junior Wells, Magic Sam…..the list goes on….

Guitarist…anyone that played an electric guitar solo through a Marshall on 11…..along with George Benson, Wes, Grant Green….etc...

FBF:  Did you know from the beginning that you wanted to play the blues, or did you try to focus on another genre?

ET:  I knew from the beginning that I wanted to be a guitarist...

FBF:  You played for a number of years with Otis Taylor, appearing on several CDs and numerous tours.  What did you learn from playing with him that has helped during your own solo career?

ET:  A long strange trip that has been …. Learn. … nothing …. The question is …. What did Otis and I learn from David and Candy Givins . the founders of Zephyr …. Their concepts are still seen in many strange ways in both Otis’s and my music  and of course one must not forget all that Kenny Passarelli brought to the table.

Turner with the Trouble Twins

FBF:  Your latest CD, Naked….In Your Face, is a live date, recorded with the Trouble Twins (Anna Lisa Hughes – bass/vocals, Kelly Kruse – drums/vocals), and it really pushes boundaries, capturing you and your sound at your peak.  You guys make a pretty formidable team.  How long have you been performing together?

ET:  That particular band was together for two weeks ….. yep, just two weeks …. Anna and I, off and on for three years.....

FBF:  I was excited to hear that you have a new album that will be coming out soon.  Can you tell us a little about what to expect?

ET:  New York , New York…… Yea , it’s going to be typical Eddie fringe material … recorded , engineered,  etc……in …. can I say it?  Brooklyn …..with a few heavy players that I was lucky enuff to have the opportunity to work with.…. A big shout out to Arnie Goodman who got the ball rolling!

FBF:  You’ve been asked to compile an Essential Eddie Turner CD……..what songs would you have to put on that collection?

ET:  “Dangerous ,” “Ask Myself Why,” “The Turner Diaries,” “SaveMy Life,” “Say,” “Sin I’m In,” “Me and Mrs. Jones,” “Blues Fall Down Like Rain,” “Miss Carrie,” “Miracles & Demons, Part 1 & 2,” “Shake 4 Me,” “Rise,” “Cost of Freedom,” “I’m a Good Man.”

FBF:  Is there anything musically that you haven’t done yet that you would like to do……or someone that you would like to work with?

ET:  Every day holds a new opportunity.  “There is always someone I would like to perform with…..a new sound that I would like to explore.

FBF:  What are some of your favorite albums or songs……from the blues or any other genre?

FBF:  If you weren’t a musician, what do you think you would be doing?

ET:  A realtor

Eddie Turner Discography

Rise (NorthernBlues Music) 2005

The Turner Diaries (NorthernBlues Music) 2006

Miracles & Demons (NorthernBlues Music) 2010

Naked...In Your Face (7-14 Productions) 2016

Friday, August 19, 2016

New Blues For You - Summer, 2016 Edition (Part 4)

This has been a great summer for new blues releases, with exciting albums from new artists, established artists, and artists from years gone by.  This week's Friday Blues Fix will look at some from each category.

As always, expanded reviews of these albums can be found in current and upcoming issues of Blues Bytes, THE monthly online magazine of blues CD reviews.  Here we go.....

David "Honeyboy" Edwards - I'm Gonna Tell You Somethin' That I Know (Pro Sho Business):  Now here's an item that should be in every blues fan's collection.  Edwards was a musical treasure and the last living link to the pre-war Mississippi Delta blues era.  He crossed paths with nearly all of the blues legends of the 30's and 40's and was always a great source of information about many of them.  He performed well into his mid 90's and was still quite nimble on guitar when I saw him in early 2011.

In 2010, Edwards appeared at a Los Angeles club called the G Spot with his longtime friend/manager/collaborator Michael Frank (founder of Earwig Records) and guitarist Jeff Dale and his band the South Woodlawners.  The event was recorded and filmed and it ended up being the last time an Edwards performance was documented.  The performance has been released as a CD/DVD set and it shows that Honeyboy still had plenty in the tank.  Both formats are fine, but the DVD stands out because it gives viewers a chance to observe his guitar playing up close, especially on slide guitar.  He runs through a set of tunes that will be familiar to most blues fans, but he plays them with his usual spirit, passion, and grit.  Also, there's a lengthy excerpt at the conclusion that features Edwards talking to a receptive audience, telling stories Robert Johnson, Charley Patton, and giving advice to budding musicians.  Blues fans should snatch this up at the first opportunity.

The Fremonts - Alligator (Truax Records):  I have always enjoyed listening to the 50's and 60's swamp blues recordings from Excello Records, and The Fremonts recapture those days perfectly on this, their third release.  They include covers of several swamp blues classic tunes that are maybe not so familiar to casual fans, a couple of vintage Frank Frost sides, and they even throw in a few R&B/soul tunes via Memphis and New Orleans, not to mention covering R.L. Burnside and Bill Withers.

That's a pretty diverse setlist, but The Fremonts work their musical magic on these tunes, giving them that vintage sound (the disc was recorded live and mixed mono), and their frontman, singer Mighty Joe Milsap, works through these songs with skill and charm,  Not just content to cover yesterday's favorites, The Fremonts are more than capable of writing tunes that mesh perfectly with the older tunes.  This is just a fun release from start to finish, especially if you love those good ol' swamp blues like they used to play them.

Kenny "Blues Boss" Wayne - Jumpin' & Boppin' (Stony Plain Records):  This underrated keyboard master offers a fabulous set of classic jump blues and boogie-woogie tracks, with able assistance from a few musicians who are familiar with the genres - guitarist Duke Robillard, longtime B.B. King bass player Russell Jackson, and young guitarist Charlie Jacobson.

A lot of this music would have been a nice fit in the catalog of 50's-era Ray Charles and sometimes Wayne brings the late legend to mind with his warm vocal style.  He mixes midtempo R&B tunes with breathless boogie and jump numbers, and even turns in a pair of dandy instrumentals that put his dexterity on full display.  This is Wayne's tenth release and if this was a perfect world, he would be a whole lot better known than he is.  Give this one a spin and prepare to be dazzled.

Omar Coleman - Live! (Delmark Records):  Coleman's Born & Raised was one of 2015's biggest releases, finishing #15 on Living Blues' Top Radio Albums of the Year, despite being released in mid-June.  Delmark recorded three of Coleman's late summer performances at the famed Rosa's Lounge last year and decided to strike while the iron was still hot, collecting the best moments from those three nights.

Backed by his excellent band, Coleman mixes healthy doses of soul and funk with his blues.  He pays tribute to one of his musical mentors, Junior Wells, and also covers tunes from Willie Dixon, Johnnie Taylor, and Rufus Thomas.  He also features several of his original tunes as well, mixing traditional blues with soul and jazz.  This is an energetic and entertaining live set.  It's great to see this young blues man getting the attention he deserves and there's still much more to be heard from him.

AG Weinberger - Mighty Business (Bigfoot Records):  One of Romania's biggest blues artists, Weinberger is a high-energy, hard-rocking blues man of the highest caliber.  The Transylvania native recently released this stellar live set (recorded in 2009 at Bucharest's Hard Rock Cafe) that features the powerhouse guitarist backed by drums and bass on eleven great songs.

Weinberger covers three Muddy Waters tunes and does a fine job.  He also covers Sam Taylor, the Meters, and Charlie Parker.  How's that for versatility??!!  His own material is strong as well, with a couple of tunes that lean toward Southern blues rock and boogie.  He's a skilled guitarist and a powerful vocalist, and based on this fine set, it's pretty easy to see why he's all the rage in Romania and why he deserves a shot stateside as well.

Tasha Taylor - Honey For The Biscuit (Ruf Records):  Ms. Taylor is the daughter of soul legend Johnnie Taylor and she explores some of the same musical terrain as her late dad.....the cool retro sounds of Stax-era soul music with a more modern roots style that gives more than a passing nod to the blues.

Taylor is a pretty talented songwriter, penning all thirteen tracks.  These tunes run from blues to soul to R&B to jazz and funk.  She has a wonderful voice that's built for blues and soul and she's backed by a standout band which includes guests Keb' Mo', Robert Randolph, Samantha Fish, and Tommy Castro, who joins Taylor on vocals for one track.  If you like soul blues done well, you need to pick this one up.  I think her dad would be proud.

Diana Rein - Long Road:  Rein's second album is a strong set of original tunes.  Dubbed "The Six-String Siren," the Romanian-born, California-based guitarist wrote all of the songs and played all the instruments on this, bass, and EZDrummer.  She's a fine guitarist and has a haunting Emmylou Harris-like quality to her vocals.

Her specialty are blues rockers and there are several good tracks here in that vein.  There's a nice tribute to one of her musical idols, Stevie Ray Vaughan.  She also outdoes herself on a couple of ballads, which really display her vocal talents. and a lovely instrumental, which closes the disc.  Overall, this is a very good release and, to be honest, I wouldn't have known that she was the only musician on here if I hadn't read the liner notes.  I wasn't familiar with Ms. Rein's work prior to receiving this disc, but Long Road makes me want to hear more.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Ten Questions With......Ed Baldwin, Author of Sliding Delta

Your humble correspondent has sort of gotten out of the habit of reading books.  I spend so much time reading various items on the internet these days that I had let my regular reading slip.  This summer, I've been doing my best to make up for lost time, I've picked up several books via Amazon and local bookstores (some of which I'll be discussing at a later time), but my favorite book of the year so far is Sliding Delta, by Ed Baldwin.  The picture of Mississippi John Hurt (a future FBF post subject) on the cover of the book, not to mention the title itself, which is also the title of one of Hurt's songs, should be enough to entice blues fans to give this one a glance.  Once you do, however, you will be hooked by the engaging story and characters.

Sliding Delta describes a summer spent in mid-60's Mississippi by a young Chicago college student named Doug Spencer, who travels south to meet one of his musical heroes, Mississippi John Hurt, during a crossroads in his collegiate career.  Spencer travels from Memphis to Cleveland, MS and finally ends up in Hurt's hometown of Avalon.  Being a bit naive, young Doug runs into several situations along the way before settling in Avalon for the summer, working in the local store and encountering many different characters from the area.  

Baldwin captures the atmosphere and mood of the times in the Magnolia State.....all the sights, sounds, and attractions, all through the eyes of this relative newcomer to the area.  There are also events that take place related to the political climate of the time, including examples of bigotry and an encounter with the Ku Klux Klan.  There are plenty of encounters with the blues and some other artists who were active during that time, both in the delta and Memphis.  It's a very entertaining read, with well-developed characters who will probably remind most readers of people they know in their own life.  You can almost feel the humidity, smell fish frying, hear the mosquitoes buzzing in your ear, and take in the sights and sounds of a Mississippi juke joint.  

Baldwin is a retired Air Force flight surgeon.  He's lived most of his life in the south, living in every southern state (except Mississippi) and is the author of the best-selling adventure series starring Major Boyd Chailland.  I plan to check out more of Baldwin's books after reading Sliding Delta.  

Friday Blues Fix decided to find out more about Baldwin and Sliding Delta, so we invited him to sit down for Ten Questions.  We appreciate him taking the time to do so.

Ten Questions With......Ed Baldwin, Author of Sliding Delta

Friday Blues Fix:  Was writing something that you always wanted to do when you were growing up, but put on the shelf until later, or was this a vocation you discovered later in life?

Ed Baldwin:  I've always been a good writer.  In college I kept my grade point average up by choosing courses that required term papers.  I started Bookman, my first novel, in 1979.  It was published in 1990, and republished a couple years ago.  It is an amateurish newbie author's work, even after two agents and 11 years of writing.  It's about that same time period and locations.  I've been writing constantly since then; five published novels, a screenplay, short stories, and a textbook.

FBF:  How did you come up with the storyline for SlidingDelta

EB:  My own coming of age adventure was selling books door to door in Mississippi, Arkansas and Tennessee.  That's what my first book, Bookman is about.  For Sliding Delta, I had no plot other than a rich boy from up north decides to go South and learn the blues.  I knew the story was going to be the rural south in its time of transition.  Then I just wrote scenes to move the story along.  The ending changed a dozen times. 

FBF:  What made you decide to use Mississippi John Hurt as the centerpiece for the story?

EB:  At the end of an episode of the HBO series Deadwood, there was a scene where the doctor is dancing with the crippled girl in the saloon.  The music was Mississippi John Hurt singing the old gospel song “Farther Along.” So simple, and so profound.  The emotion in his voice and the guitar accompaniment captivated me.  I found more of his music, read about him, and went on a journey of discovery about his music and his times.  He was the transition from old folk music to what we know as Delta blues. 

FBF:  One thing I enjoyed about the book is the supporting characters in the town of Avalon.  You made them vivid characters with very distinctive (and southern) personalities, especially the way they made Doug Spencer (the main character of Sliding Delta) feel not only welcome, but reluctant to leave.  Is Doug based on you or someone you know?  Are any of the other characters?

EB:  When I do characters I start with a situation that needs a character; like the two colored boys Jasper and Jarvus.  They first appear when Cooter has set the grease on fire at the fish fry.  They are just riding by as background to show that those small towns had colored and white people living in proximity and getting along.  Then I give the character a name and think about a back story, which may or may not make it into the book.  In their case the back story was they just had one old bicycle, their father was gone up north working and they lived in a tenant house with their mother and grandmother; a completely normal situation for the time.

Once they have a name the character begins to live and they write themselves.  The boys were so excited after their buying spree they ran out the screen door of Kinder's store.  What if two colored boys run into a grumpy old white man on the steps?  Enter Mr. Hoagland.

Doug is a neutral character who observes and tells the story.  He has to be from someplace else so he can discern what about Delta life is unique.  He's relating the story years later so he has a mature man's perspective.  So, in that sense he is me. 

FBF:  You also reflect on some of the events that were taking place in Mississippi during the mid-60’s.  Those were definitely turbulent times then, but the state has improved since those days, and continues to do so.  A lot of blues fans today are young and probably don’t know much about this particular era.  Did you ever witness or experience anything like the events you describe in Sliding Delta?  

EB:  Oh yes.  The "Hey boy!" episode in Greenwood where the two colored "boys" are called in to move the shelves happened exactly like that while I was visiting a friend in Marianna, Arkansas in 1963.  The jail scene in Cleveland, MS is pretty much what happened to me. The point of it is that a colored and a white policeman negotiated with a colored man and a white man who knew each other, to stay in a cell together so that a white boy from up north could have a cell to himself and avoid any chance of conflict with outsiders.  The locals worked together.  Young people today have the idea that all the whites were Hoagland, and all the colored were John Hurt.  Not so; there were the KKK, the Kinders, the sheriff, the pawnbroker, and the two black guys with the switchblade knife with the red plastic handle. All different people.

In the book I use the word "colored" instead of the current term of "black" because people didn't refer to negroes as black in those days.  That came in the late 60's.

Some critics have complained that I soften the racial conflict.  The Jim Crow south was a very complex social order in which blacks and whites had to be careful, even in the simplest situations.  And, they were.  There's a lot of nuance in my story.  If Doug had been a black college boy from Chicago down to experience his roots it would have been a different tale indeed. 

FBF:  When you think about, so much American music has its roots in the state of Mississippi.  What is it about Mississippi, and the delta area in particular, that made it such a hotbed of musical creativity?

EB:  Cotton is a labor intensive crop, and it is hard on the land.  Northwest Mississippi is deep Delta soil renewed by frequent flooding, and flat.  Large plantations thrived there from before the 1840's, and after the Civil War freed the slaves the Jim Crow laws and culture kept that subjugated work force on the land, and isolated. 

Delta blues music is the sound of the human soul breaking through that isolation and subjugation; a cry of pain; a promise of something better.  There are famous musicians of color from elsewhere who have a completely different sound.  Listen to Duke Ellington (Washington, DC), Chuck Berry (St. Louis), Little Richard (Macon, GA), they're good in a different way. 

In the Delta you could escape the cotton field if you had musical talent. There was a market for music and, though the people were poor, they'd pay a few cents for some entertainment.  All the old blues guys started on the street playing for tips.

FBF:  When and how did you first get bitten by the blues bug?

EB:  While I was living in Memphis and traveling around the south I went into the segregated nightclubs; especially the Club Handy.  That was risky, which was why we did it. White guys didn't go to colored clubs then.  Also, my brother was a guitar player and I watched his band make records in the old Sun Studio on Union. I listened to WDIA; "50,000 watts of soul power!"

FBF:  Who were some of the earliest artists and some of the earliest blues albums you listened to? 

EB:  I saw Albert King at the Club Handy about 1965; big black guy playing that cut down little guitar.  I liked B.B. King better, and Booker T and the MGs. Ace Cannon was a white sax player from Mississippi whose sound was pure Delta blues.
FBFAre there any present –day artists that you enjoy listening to?

EB:  I ducked out of my wife's high school reunion in Waterloo, Iowa and went to a blues festival and saw Reverend Raven and the Chain Smoking Alter Boys.  They're from Chicago.  It was good old time blues. I was in Buddy Guy's Club in Chicago and saw the house band.  They started out singing “Sweet Home Chicago,” which is from the 1930's, and it was good.  They got into some more current music when the crowd filled up with younger people.  The leader came over to our table at the break.  He was a young guy who had howled like the Wolf, and bent strings and slid frets like Albert King.  I asked him where he learned and he said, "Right here; I grew up two blocks over."

There are four or five good blues clubs on Beale Street now, and there's music seven days a week.  I heard Sheryl Crow sing with her father's band, The Usual Suspects, at B.B. KIng's Club last fall.  Wow, Sheryl can sing the blues!  The house band that followed was great too.  The blues is performance art.  See it live.  Blues fanatics should go to that annual blues festival in Helena.  It's in October. 

FBF:  What are some of your future writing projects?  Do you plan to return to the blues in the future?

EB:  I'm working on Secrets of the Sunken Land, which is a multi-generational saga about the aftermath of the New Madrid Earthquake, which happened in 1811-12.  The land west of the Mississippi River from Cairo, Illinois to Helena, Arkansas sank into an impenetrable swamp and the drainage of that swamp and its reclamation into the best farmland in the world is an untapped mother lode of lost stories and adventure.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Dark Was The Night - The Music of Blind Willie Johnson

Recently, I picked up a copy of Dark Was The Night, a collection of the gospel-blues recordings of slide guitarist Blind Willie Johnson, a Texas street-corner evangelist whose amazing guitar work was a major influence on scores of guitarists since his heyday in the early 1930's.   Many of his songs, including most of the sixteen tracks on this CD, have become standards and have been covered by many of today's guitarists.

I first heard Johnson on another collection that I bought in the early 90's when I first started exploring pre-war blues, via the Roots 'n Blues series of recordings released by Columbia/Legacy in the early 90's.  Legends of the Blues, Vol. 1 had 20 fantastic tracks and is an excellent way to start listening to pre-war blues.  Johnson's "Lord, I Just Can't Keep From Crying" was on that set, along with a lot of other great songs that really helped open up the early blues world for me.

It was Johnson's song that really grabbed me though.  The fierce slide guitar and his passionate, gruff vocals were unlike anything I'd ever heard at that time.  I wasn't really sure what to do with it.  I remember listening to it over and over again.  A few weeks earlier, I had gotten a copy of Yazoo Records mail order catalog and I remembered seeing an album of Johnson's, but I wasn't sure whether to get it or not.  His music was that heavy.   It was so emotional, heartfelt, and intense.

Eventually, Columbia/Legacy released a two-album set (The Complete Blind Willie Johnson) which captured all of Johnson's recordings that have been found.  I picked up a cassette copy of it in the mid 90's.  By then, I was able to take it all in.  His guitar work is truly astounding at times, and his vocals brought chills.

Though Johnson played gospel music, his life was as close to the stereotype of a blues man as you can probably get.  He was born near Temple, Texas, in a community called Pendleton, around the turn of the century (dates vary from 1897 to 1902).  His mother died when he was very young and his father remarried.  When Johnson was about seven years old, his father and stepmother were in a fight.  He caught her going out with another man and beat her.  Out of spite, she threw lye water at Willie's father, but the lye got in the youngster's eyes and blinded him.

As Johnson got older, he began playing guitar to earn money.  When he was five, he had wanted to be a preacher and had constructed his own cigar box guitar.  It was said Johnson played slide guitar using a pocketknife instead of a bottleneck.  However, the only known picture of Johnson shows him with a bottleneck on the pinky finger of his left hand.  Sometimes he did play without a slide.  His guitar work showed elements of gospel and blues influences, but Johnson didn't want to be a blues man.

Playing music was one of the few ways a blind man could earn a living of any kind back in those days, so his father would leave him on street corners to sing.  Samuel Charters relayed a story about Johnson nearly starting a riot at a New Orleans court house when he sang "If I Had My Way I'd Tear The Building Down," which was about the story of Samson and Delilah.  He was arrested by a New Orleans policeman for incitement while singing the song in front of the Customs House.  Apparently, the police officer took the title lyric literally.

In 1927, Johnson recorded the first six of 30 songs for Columbia Records.  They included "If I Had My Way," "Mother's Children Have a Hard Time," which is also known as "Motherless Children," and "It's Nobody's Fault But Mine," all of which are recognized classics that have been covered by numerous blues men over the years.  He also recorded "Jesus Make Up My Dying Bed," "I Know His Blood Can Make Me Whole," and the spellbinding "Dark Was The Night, Cold Was The Ground,"

"Dark Was The Night, Cold Was The Ground" was about the crucifixion of Christ, and consists of  Johnson's beautiful, otherworldly slide guitar and his wordless, passionate moaning.  It sends chills down your spine, even if you don't know the basis for the song.  If you do know, it will hit you straight through the heart.  

Johnson recorded for Columbia several more times between 1927 and 1930, sometimes accompanied by his first wife, Willie B. Harris, who had also performed with him on the streets in the areas between Dallas and Waco, where Johnson mixed sermons (he became a Baptist preacher) and music during his performances.  Some of the standouts of those sessions included "I Just Can't Keep From Cryin'," "God Don't Never Change," "You'll Need Someone On Your Bond," and "John The Revelator."  Johnson was one of Columbia's best-selling artists in his genre, but never recorded again after 1930.

Still, he continued to perform on the streets during the 30's and 40's, singing and preaching the gospel.  By the mid-40's, he had settled in Beaumont, TX, where he served at the House of Prayer.  In the late summer of 1945, his house burned to the ground.  Johnson and his second wife, Angeline, lived in the burned-out remains of their house because they had nowhere else to go and slept on a wet bed in the searing Texas summer heat.  Johnson contracted pneumonia and died just a couple of weeks later.

Artists from Eric Clapton to Bob Dylan, Ry Cooder, to Peter, Paul, and Mary and Robert Randolph have recorded Johnson's songs.  "Dark Was The Night" was included as one of the music tracks placed on the unmanned Voyager space probe.  It was the primary influence of Ry Cooder's soundtrack to the movie Paris, Texas.  It's appeared on several TV shows, including The West Wing and The Walking Dead, and was one of the featured tunes on the Johnny Cash biopic, Walk The Line.

Recently, Alligator Records issued a tribute album to Johnson, called God Don't Never Change: The Songs of Blind Willie Johnson, featuring Johnson's songs as interpreted by artists such as Tom Waits, Lucinda Williams, the Cowboy Junkies, Derek Trucks & Susan Tedeschi, Luther Dickinson, the Blind Boys of Alabama, and others.

There are several fine sources for Johnson's music.  Yazoo Records collected these songs on two albums, Praise God I'm Satisfied and Sweeter as the Years Go By in 1989 and 1990.  Columbia released The Complete Blind Willie Johnson in 1993 with slightly improved sound, then released Dark Was The Night about five years later, a more concise set of 16 songs, which is the best place for a new listener to start.