A perfect, absolutely essential follow up to “Vol 1”, “King of the Delta Blues Singers Vol 2” is fully lived-in and wildly cathartic. Each song here is, in all candor, breathtaking and very, very “alive”. That is, Johnson doesn’t let himself hide behind any artistic or musical mirrors. Rather, he’s here to do one thing and do it with total conviction and passion: sing his fucking heart out. And, lucky enough for us, he’s able to do so commandingly and effortlessly.
“Vol 2” is as riveting and as authentic as “Vol 1”. Not that that surprised me since Johnson is an absolute master at his craft. That is, his utter conviction towards the blues and overarching craftsmanship towards music shine brightly in every single song on this compilation.
Although most songs on here are short, brevity works astonishingly well for Johnson. He’s able to put forth excellent storytelling and exude an undying, magnetic air of charisma into such small musical encapsulations. Essential blues. Simply essential. Onto my top picks.
I first heard “Stop Breakin’ Down Blues” off of the Stones bloated double album “Exile on Main Street”. Much like “Hard Time Killing Floor Blues”, I thought that version was perfect. However, much like Skip James’ original (see: my review of Skip James’ “Hard Time Killing Floor Blues”), Johnson’s version is blues personified. With its chugging guitar and fiery vocal performance, “Down” is a rock and blues masterpiece.
Furthermore, a little background is necessary about my relationship with “Love In Vain”. My initial exposure to Johnson was from the Stones’ dismal catharsis of an album “Let It Bleed”. I was a freshman in high school and I thought their version of “Love In Vain” was boring; it wasn’t what I was used to. Fortunately enough, I grew musically as I grew physically (and mentally, let’s hope). As such, I grew to love “Let It Bleed”, especially “Love In Vain”. Realizing it was a cover, I frantically searched the internet for the original and was blown away by Johnson’s original. Ahhhhhhh, this song is so goddamn good! One of the saddest songs I’ve ever heard, I hold this song in incredibly high regard.
As such, I hold this compilation in astonishingly high regard. “Vol 2” is a genre-defying masterpiece (much like “Vol 1”). Bluesy, soulful, folksy and rock n roll-laden, this compilation certainly paved the way for many, many incredibly talented artists down the road. Do yourself a favor and give it a listen!
My Grade: A+