Monday, May 19, 2008

Robert Johnson - King of the Delta Blues Singers Vol. 2

I fell in love with this album cover at The Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame last week, and though the artwork was produced in 1970 for this reissue of Robert Johnson's Great Depression blues stamps, most certainly the aura of Johnson's poor boy recording technique is captured perfectly, registering a sign of the times in which his drippy and deeply affecting music were laid down.

You can feel the economic oppression of the thirties even though the hotel room Johnson is depicted in is rather clean though strictly ordinary. I really dig the fact his mike cable trickles out beneath his room's door, leaving the viewer to wonder where it's connected to, a common outlet in the main hallway or another room or a portable generator? What's the story here? Is this hotel so strapped its residents need to share an outlet plug as they likely share a bathroom? The isolation of Johnson and his blues odes is rendered by the juxtaposition of him and his microphone in an obtuse corner, only given character by the adjacent painting and offsetting vibrancy of the pink-bordered rug. You have to appreciate the duality presented here.

Of course, the answer to where that cord leads to is reflected on the back of the cover, which I'll leave you all to seek out on your own, appropriately leaving as much an air of mystery as Johnson's death, which stories have been diversely attributed to poisoning, the black arts and stabbing from a jealous husband. Methinks Johnson has created an unheard blues tune in the afterlife in which the accurate details of his passing are waiting to be discovered by spirit travelers.


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