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Friday, February 21, 2014

29 of 1001 Songs: Robert Johnson's Hellhound on my Trail

So I used this single cover of Cross Road Blues because finding a cover to use for Hell Hound on My Trail was even more complicated. It seems the song has inspired many art prints and artistic endeavors of those who enjoy the tune. Johnson is a very bluesy artist, and while I'm sure plenty of women enjoy his music there is a masculine tone that is present in most songs that show cases the appeal.

History: This song further puts into the tale that Johnson sold his soul to the devil to achieve his musical talents. People continued to let this song fuel the tale even though plenty of artist before Johnson had discussed the topic of hellhounds. The song though has achieved a legacy as well. It's been inducted in blues' hall of fame, and has been credited as one of the most influential blues song there is. It's still one of Johnson's most popular singles to date.


Vocals: Johnson also has some of the most blues driven vocals on the list so far, and along with that come the very blues music. I can't say that I'm huge fan of many of the aspects of blues outside the guitar though I admit there is plenty of talent in the genre. Johnson singing style is very emotional, so sometimes it includes ranges that go everywhere, but it heightens the emotions of the music he is singing as well, so that is a positive aspect of the song.

Instrumentals: The pacing of the instrumentals are done very well to amp up the emotions of the lyrics and the singing. The guitar has a nice rhythm, and it is memorable. I guess still I was feeling underwhelmed with the whole tone of the song still though. While I like how Johnson has arranged the song I still wasn't feeling a connection with the instrumentals or the vocals, but I think it's the possible theme of the lyrics that steer me the most away from the song.

Lyrics: The lyrics sound like a man on the run from something bad, which makes sense as to why this song continues the idea that Johnson sold his soul to the devil for his talent. With the idea in southern churches at the time, which the south is where Johnson is from, that hellhounds were actually sent to catch sinners it would be relevant that Johnson thought he would be the target of hellhounds if he thought they existed. I do find it intriguing how the culture of the time is so weaved into Johsnon's music. Whether it's faith imagery that was popular at the time or dealing with racial perceptions he stays for relevant to the 30's. I still just don't think I could even listen to the content.

Johnson has made his name in blues legend. If you listen to blues there is a very good chance you're listening to Johnson. There are definitely all the elements there for blues from the emotional lyrics, the guitar, and even the voicing. It's arranged in a way that sets a tone, and it's inspired many musicians afterwards to pattern the genre in the same way.


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