Heard “Travelling Riverside Blues” on the way home. Pretty sure that Robert Johnson is overrated by those who just like to say his name, but I can’t find too much fault with “Travelling”–even while recognizing that the Led Zeppelin cover towers over Johnson’s original.
Anyway, what I was thinking on while driving home, listening to Robert Johnson, was that it seems to me that Johnson’s stature is more a result of the circumstances surrounding the release of his first compilation album than anything else. Except for a historical accident or two, it could have been Charley Patton or even Son House they were calling King.
I don’t necessarily want to take issue with Eric Clapton or Johnny Winter, but I myself don’t hear anything in Johnson’s music that I don’t hear in Patton’s, while I don’t feel the reverse to be true. Let me emphasize again, I like “Travelling Riverside Blues” just fine, but it’s pretty clear to me that Charley Patton is a more powerful singer, and a better guitar player, than Robert Johnson.
The only things Johnson has on Patton are an old wives’ tale and an earlier release date for his breakthrough compilation.