Blind Willie Johnson – Nobody’s Fault But Mine: The Original Recordings 1927-1930 (Rev-Ola Records)

Nobody's Fault But Mine

There’s no shortage of great music from the early years of recorded blues. Just scratch the surface and you’ll find important records from Skip James, Blind Willie McTell, Memphis Minnie, Blind Lemon Jefferson, “Mississippi” John Hurt, and a host of others. Even among so many great performers, Blind Willie Johnson was a special talent. The songs Jefferson recorded in Texas from 1927-1930 were largely traditional religious numbers that had been passed down for decades, but they’re no lightweight gospel. The key is Johnson’s gravelly voice. Once you’ve heard his fire-and-brimstone delivery on “If I Had My Way I’d Burn The Building Down,” “Praise God I’m Satisfied,” or “Trouble Will Soon Be Over,” it’s practically impossible to get it out of your head. It’s perhaps the first recorded entry in a bloodline of guttural singers like Howling Wolf, Tom Waits, and Captain Beefheart. The man could play the hell out of the guitar too, with a quick handed slide technique that influenced pretty much everyone that came after. Jimmy Page was a particularly big fan, adapting “It’s Nobody’s Fault But Mine” with Led Zeppelin, and nicking more than a few of Johnson’s guitar moves.

With Nobody’s Fault But Mine: The Original Recordings 1927-1930, Rev-Ola Records gives listeners a chance to hear 23 of the 30 songs he recorded. The remastering is good, with a surprisingly low level of surface-noise for such vintage recordings. The only beef I have, and it’s a minuscule one, is with the cheap-looking pixilation on the front cover. But, who really cares about such trifling matters? What it comes down to is this: if you’ve never heard Blind Willie Johnson before, you need to do something about it, and buying this album should be that something.


1. I Know His Blood Can Make Me Whole
2. Jesus Make Up My Dying Bed
3. It’s Nobody’s Fault But Mine
4. Mother’s Children Have a Hard Time
5. Dark Was the Night (Cold Was the Ground)
6. If I Had My Way I’d Burn the Building Down
7. I’m Gonna Run to the City of Refuge
8. Jesus Is Coming Soon
9. Lord I Just Can’t Help from Crying
10. Keep Your Lamp Trimmed and Burning
11. God Don’t Never Change
12. Bye and Bye I’m Goin’ to See the Ring
13. When the War Was On
14. Praise God I’m Satisfied
15. God Moves on the Water
16. Can’t Nobody Hide from God
17. The Rain Don’t Fall on Me
18. Trouble Will Soon Be Over
19. The Soul of a Man
20. Everybody Ought to Treat a Stranger Right
21. Church, I’m Fully Save Today
22. John the Revelator
23. You’re Gonna Need Somebody on Your Bond