Blues, Acoustic Blues, Country Blues, Pre-War Country Blues, Delta Blues, Regional Blues, Pre-War Blues

Album Review

An essential Tommy Johnson collection, Document's Complete Recorded Works (1928-1929) features 17 songs from the Delta blues pioneer, including two alternative takes and a pair of previously unissued songs known respectively as "Morning Prayer Blues" and "Boogaloosa Blues." Culled from the great Delta musician's recording sessions in Memphis and Grafton, WI, from February 1928 to December 1929, this collection shines a light on all of Johnson's known output during his most active recording years. As with most music taken straight from original 78s, the sound quality varies between tracks; all in all, the pops and static aren't too distracting here. The music is well-worth seeking out as the writing, guitar playing, and singing are all exceptional. Johnson's voice, one of the distinctive early Delta blues voices along with Son House and Charley Patton, changes from a deep rumble to a woeful falsetto while his guitar playing is characteristic of the early Delta style. With the exception of a few of the tracks from an August 1928 session, other players accompany Johnson on the tracks. Highlights include the well-known material such as "Cool Drink of Water Blues" and "Canned Heat Blues," as well as scratchy lesser-known gems from his later sessions. The tracks "Ridin' Horse" and "Alcohol and Jake Blues" were taken from what is believed to be the only remaining copy of the 78 they were originally released on. These two songs had not been released on CD prior to this collection. On the two versions of "Black Mare Blues" included, Johnson is joined by the New Orleans Nehi Boys, featuring Kid Ernest Marshall on clarinet and Charley Taylor on piano. The CD includes informative notes by Paul Oliver, personnel lineups for each session, along with issue numbers for the original releases. This is highly recommended for those who have never heard Johnson's music and equally recommended for those who have.
Jeff Schwachter, Rovi

Track Listing

  1. Cool Drink of Water Blues
  2. Big Road Blues
  3. Bye Bye Blues
  4. Maggie Campbell Blues
  5. Canned Heat Blues
  6. Lonesome Home Blues [Take 1][#]
  7. Lonesome Home Blues [Take 2][#]
  8. Big Fat Mama Blues
  9. I Wonder to Myself
  10. Slidin' Delta
  11. Lonesome Home Blues
  12. Untitled Song (Morning Prayer Blues) [Take 1][#]
  13. Untitled Song (Boogaloosa Woman) [Take 2][#]
  14. Black Mare Blues [Take 1][#]
  15. Black Mare Blues [Take 2]
  16. Ridin' Horse
  17. Alcohol and Jake Blues