Friday, September 30, 2005

Higher than the heavens

BLIND WILLIE JOHNSON "Sweeter as the Years Go By"

Freelance monies I expected to arrive did not, but this week has been pretty groovy regardless: productive and fun, and stuff. Too many rad bands on tour all at once, it seems. Hard to choose which shows to go to to on single nights, and which evenings to sacrifice to fun and which to work. Last night I caught some of Acid Mothers Temple's set though unfortunately missed Portland's awesome and very good-looking Plants, especially since they played as a seven-piece big band with members of Nice Nice and the Evolutionary Jass Band. Tomorrow night Calvin Johnson DJs at my favorite sandwich shop on the Earth, while Saturday it's all about Four Tet and Jamie Lidell(!), then Monday I hop between Doughty and Dungen. Best show I've seen in awhile was Whip at the aforementioned sandwich joint last weekend, which I didn't want to mention since I DJ'ed and I'm not into making this a self-promo type thing you know? I mean, I get emo and self-centered here enough already. (That said, I was mostly AWESOME and RULING that night, and in case you ever wondered, the last tune on side A of Don Cherry's Eternal Now mixes perfectly with MBV's Isn't Anything while Stockhausen's Kontakte goes beautifully with a little Bongo Joe. People who play one song at a time are mostly pussies, don't you think? Or professionals...)

I just wrote a column for eMusic that oughta run in about six weeks about Blind Willie Johnson. They have the two excellent Yazoo comp.s that turned me on to his music and contain all thirty known recorded sides by this itinerant singer on their site -- believe me, you need them if you don't have them already. The more deeply I fall in love with sanctified blues/ bluesy and raw streetcorner type gospel in general, and Blind Willie Johnson in particular, the more I forget that it was a bit of a struggle at first to get into this stuff. I mean, I'll concede the dude sounds like a frog here on this song, for instance. But then I guess a lot of the music I like the most was "difficult" at first. I remember in seventh grade how dreadful the first Velvets album sounded but I kept listening to it, regardless...

Most folks peg the gospel blues as an historical anomaly, but for me it’s a genre in and of itself that remains to this day (which I believe I've already said in this blog at least once thus far) so many thanks to CaseQuarter for helping us see some of the ways this fabulous sound does remain. A lot of my favorite gospel blues artists –Sister Mamie Forehead, Reverend E.W. Clayborn, Arizona Dranes, etc.— are admittedly pretty one-dimensional, but that doesn't bother me much. B.W. Johnson, however, has a diverse little set of songs, so that helps him to be more appealing to the neophyters and the neo-lovers-not-a-phyters alike (grooooaaaan).

If you read just one article about Blind Willie, make it Michael Corcoran's piece from two years ago. It's pretty awesome. I love the casual ways Corcoran corrects the historical record when he undertakes this type of dirt-digging reportage. God bless that motherfucker.