It’s always nice to see publicly underappreciated artists get their due, even when that due comes almost 70 years following their death. In February, Alligator Records is resurrecting the music of gospel/blues pioneer Blind Willie Johnson with the power of several notable artists, including Tom Waits, Lucinda Williams, Sinéad O’Connor, and Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi. The album, entitled God Don’t Never Change: The Songs Of Blind Willie Johnson, is slated for release by the Chicago-based label on Feb. 26.
Johnson is well-known as an early slide-guitar wizard and though he sang in a natural tenor, his signature vocal technique became a raspy, false-bass growl. From 1927 to 1930, he recorded 30 songs, mostly traditional hymnals infused with his blues trappings and performed solo on acoustic guitar. Since then, they’ve been reinterpreted by a number of musicians, particularly during the 1960s folk revival after Reverend Gary Davis taught the songs to many of the young artists living in Greenwich Village. Johnson’s song “Dark Was The Night – Cold Was The Ground” in particular has been cited as a seminal piece of blues guitar, enough so that it was included on the golden record of human civilization that NASA shot into space aboard Voyager 1 in 1977.
So maybe someday extraterrestrials will give Johnson’s music their own spin. For now, though, we’ll have to settle for the solid lineup executive producer Jeffrey Gaskill has put together. Check out the track listing below:
God Don’t Never Change: The Songs Of Blind Willie Johnson
1. The Soul Of A Man (Tom Waits)
2. It’s Nobody’s Fault But Mine (Lucinda Williams)
3. Keep Your Lamp Trimmed And Burning (Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi)
4. Jesus Is Coming Soon (Cowboy Junkies)
5. Mother’s Children Have A Hard Time (The Blind Boys of Alabama)
6. Trouble Will Soon Be Over (Sinéad O’Connor)
7. Bye And Bye I’m Going To See The King (Luther Dickinson featuring The Rising Star Fife & Drum Band)
8. God Don’t Never Change (Lucinda Williams)
9. John The Revelator (Tom Waits)
10. Let Your Light Shine On Me (Maria McKee)
11. Dark Was The Night—Cold Was The Ground (Rickie Lee Jones)