Even in the blues, a style capable of wrenching unexplainable emotions from its audience, Blind Willie Johnson has few equals. With a voice capable of alternating effortlessly between sublime, trembling tenor and the sound of pure gravel, and unparalleled skill with the bottleneck (and knife), Johnson recorded 30 sides for Columbia (1927-1930) that stand as a high-water mark for both country blues and raw gospel. Given the fact that his entire output has been issued by both Yazoo and Columbia, it's difficult to imagine opting for this single disc. Anyone looking for more material will be forced to purchase sets with redundant selections. Still, if you are only seeking one collection, you cannot go wrong with Dark Was the Night. Included are both "God Moves on the Water" and "Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground," which are both utterly necessary, along with the classics "Praise God I'm Satisfied," "Jesus Make Up My Dying Bed," "John the Revelator," and 11 others. "God Moves" is a slide masterpiece in which Johnson's guitar interjections and responses become as captivating as his voice and a tale of the Titanic sinking at the will of God. "Dark Was the Night" is an otherworldly performance of gorgeously spun slide lines and Johnson's wordless moaning, aimed straight at the heart. Everything else on hand is nothing less than emotionally rich, consummately executed and spiritually charged blues at its very best.
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AllMusic Review by Nathan Bush