Reviews of God Don’t Never Change: The Songs Of Blind Willie Johnson

Gospel blues singer-guitarist Blind Willie Johnson’s feverish meditations on the wages of sin and the wrath of God are still leaving musical ripples nearly 90 years after they were first recorded. Fittingly,venerable blues label Alligator Records has assembled the tribute album God Don’t Never Change,which features Lucinda Williams howling her way through the title track and “It’s Nobody’s Fault But Mine.” Tom Waits shows up for a couple selections, including a clanging, apocalyptic “John the Revelator.” Blind Willie was also one hell of a sanctified slide guitarist, recreated here by Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi on the swampy “Keep Your Lamp Trimmed and Burning.”–RollingStone Country, by Jon Freeman, 2/2016

Underscoring Blind Willie Johnson’s lasting impact, the exciting tribute album God Don’t Never Change is a fitting salute, starring some obvious kindred spirits and a few surprises among the admirers. Rickie Lee Jones, Lucinda Williams and Tom Waits (whose skid-row vocal style seems directly descended from Johnson’s) hew closely to the spirit of the master, while Cowboy Junkies get uncharacteristically down and dirty on “Jesus Is Coming Soon” and veteran blues dude Luther Dickinson lends an unexpected delicacy to “Bye and Bye I’m Going to See the King,” with assistance from the Rising Star Fife & Drum Band.” Ideally, this excellent set will also send listeners back to Johnson’s own timeless, still unsurpassed, recordings.  –Mother Jones, by Jon Young, 3/5/2016

A shadowy blues master gets a reverential tribute. God Don’t Never Change: The Songs Of Blind Willie Johnson pays tribute to the slide-guitar master by reaffirming the durability of his songs. Stripped-down arrangements mirror the starkness of Johnson’s original recordings. Waits captures Johnson’s haunted essence on The Soul Of A Man and summons ghosts on John The Revelator. Susan Tedeschi’s burlap-and-silk vocal textures and Derek Trucks’ slide-guitar punctuation suit a back-porch arrangement of Keep Your Lamp Trimmed and Burning. The Cowboy Junkies give Jesus is Coming Soon a psychedelic afterglow, and Sinead O’Connor finds the uneasy middle ground between a declaration of faith and a desperate plea for deliverance on Trouble Will Soon Be Over.
–The Chicago Tribune, Greg Kot, March 1, 2016

God Don’t Never Change: The Songs Of Blind Willie Johnson is a fine homage to Johnson’s brutally honest songs. Waits is perfect for The Soul Of A Man…it’s a joyful lecture delivered under the auspices of a sweltering summer revival. The real highlight arrives with Sinead O’Connor’s Trouble Will Soon Be Over. Her resilient voice rises over a guitar line that drones more like the blues of West Africa…a sharp tribute to the durability and relevance of these songs.–Pitchfork, Grayson Currin, February 29, 2016

God Don’t Never Change: The Songs Of Blind Willie Johnson is a stirring homage to the Texas gospel singer. The versions here preserve deep spirituality, with the Cowboy Junkies, Sinead O’Connor, TheBlind Boys Of Alabama and Maria McKee among those ably keeping the faith. Waits is intense but subdued…leaving no room for faintheartedness. Producer Jeffrey Gaskill’s able guidance has resulted in 11 stirring renditions which replicated the soul of the songs not just the sounds.–Associated Press, February 29, 2016

God Don’t Never Change: The Songs Of Blind Willie Johnson is a fitting tribute to Johnson’s greatness. Sparse but energetic, driven by slide guitar and a stope doer handclapped rhythm. For a tribute album,the aesthetic is surprisingly and rewardingly unified.–Philadelphia Inquirer, by Steve Klinge, February 29, 2016

God Don’t Never Change: The Songs Of Blind Willie Johnson is not necessarily about unique interpretations of Johnson’ work, but his influence on these specific artists. Emotionally resonant…spooky, melodic,… poignant, ……Reflects the enduring, mercurial influence of the artist, butal so the weight the Christian gospel imposes on questions of the human condition as it encounters suffering, joy, mercy, loneliness, death, and resurrection.– by Thom Jurek

 Rousing, blues-gospel anthem. Johnson’s music has a strong spiritual message and each of the artists here channels the essence of the originals through their own highly recognizable voices. Here 11 gems from Johnson’ catalog are reworked by performers well-suited to the task. Waits gives a raise-the-roof swagger. Williams brings her plaintive, emotive touch. O’Connor sells it like her life depended on it. Cowboy Junkies turn  Jesus Is Coming Soon into a strident, swampy blues. McKee is infectiously authentic. A thoroughly compelling nod to Johnson’s craft.–The Australian, by Iain Shedden, 3/3/2016

Blind Willie Johnson is not just the shibboleth of the elite blues fan. He’s one of those artists who lifts you out of your room and takes you somewhere else. He makes you forget where and when you are. His songs are the songs of faith from the bottom of a man’s soul and the top of his conviction.  God Don’t Never Change: The Songs Of Blind Willie is stacked from top to bottom with roots music icons who are actually called icons outside their press kits. God Don’t Never Change: The Songs Of Blind Willie
succeeds brilliantly. Waits sings with power and credibility. He sounds a whole lot like a pre-war bluesman at this point, but he’s not doing an imitation of one. This is his home. Lucinda Williams performances cut as hard as they can cut, all fire scorch and whiskey roar. The Blind Boys Of Alabama contribution is lush and spirited. The album’s biggest surprise is Sinead O’Connor, who sings with a passion and intensity that will bring you to your knees. Is it one of her best performances, sanctified and holy and confrontational.  Awesome in the Biblical sense. The best track belongs to Maria McKee. She blows it out of the water. It may be the finest vocal performance of her career. It conjures all the joy it conjured when Blind Willie Johnson sang it. McKee does her level best to remind us that it’s the message that makes this music work, not the performer, and succeeds beyond all expectations. This is the best Americana album of the year. It reminds us all the way out here in 2016 that Blind Willie Johnson’ songs are still alive, and there is no better way to pay tribute to one of the finest American artists who ever lived.–Paste, by Kaleb Horton, 2/25/2016

This thing is so powerful, it’s intimidating. It’s like being thrown across a room and pinned to a wall by some unseen, immovable force. The cast assembled here to take on Blind Willie does him proud. Tom Waits sounds like a whiskey-sozzled, back-slid stump preacher on his knees after a night of debauchery inquiring about the fate of his battered soul. An inspired mash up of old and new. Lucinda Williams knits Appalachia and gospel threads into a country hymn that wraps around you like a comfortable old quilt. Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks’ stripped down sound sounds like it was scooped down from the rafters of a 1930’s African-American gospel service in a rural Southern church. The always magnificent Blind Boys Of Alabama are stellar. Jason Isbell contributes a slide underpinning that sounds like he’s been a band member since day one. Saint or sinner, this big bundle of medicine contains a soul stirring potion that’s good for what ails ya. You don’t need no doctor. Just scarf it up and let the healing gospel goodness do the rest.–No Depression, by Grant Britt, 2/5/2016

The production on the whole disc is absolutely; stunning, astonishing and sensations. Though it is basically an acoustic disc the sound is bursting out of the speakers in a fullness rarely heard. Each of Blind Willie Johnson’s blues/gospel songs is done by the perfect performer to get the most from the song. Outstanding.–No Depression, by bob Gottlieb, 2/19/2016

God Don’t Never Change: The Songs Of Blind Willie includes a diverse array of artists whose work maybe rooted in the blues but whose range defies easy categorization. Waits sounds like he was recorded at a cemetery parking lot at midnight under a full moon. Waits’ gravelly vocals eerily evoke Johnson’growling voice. Williams finds the sweet spot between the blues and gospel Johnson so amazingly brought to his music.–, by Steven Horowitz, 2/25/2016

The contributors represent an impressive cross section of Americana. The disc is beautifully packaged,making this a wonderful and longtime homage to one of American’s most treasured, if often overlooked,blues and gospel singers.–American Songwriter, by Hal Horowitz, 2/2016

Tom Waits singing the blues classic, “John The Revelator?” Call that a perfect match of material and menacing growl. Waits’ version on a new tribute to its composer Blind Willie Johnson is right up therewith the best. It’s also a good reason to avail yourself of a copy of God Don’t Never Change, the new collection of tracks celebrating Johnson’s music. The liner-note essay by my old friend, Texan Michael Corcoran is predictably great and the artwork here is pretty fabulous. Jeff Gaskill, whose baby this is, deserves kudos for shepherding together a class package.–Stereophile, by Robert Baird, 3/2016

Tom Waits has the perfect voice for an homage to a gospel-blues troubadour who seemed to address his audience from another dimension. Sinead O’Connors’s take on Trouble Will Soon Be Over is the most uplifting performance she’s given in years. The Cowboy Junkies arrangement of Jesus Is Coming Soon convinces you that the world is coming to an end. Mesmerizing.–London Times, March 12, 2016

How Do You Sing Blind Willie Johnson? By Elon Green–The New Yorker, 3/5/2016

Blind Willie Johnson: The Timeless Sound Of Salvation, by J. Poet–Lone Star Music, 2/19/2016