An intriguing idea: Imagine Robert Johnson never passed away, but had lived on through all of the musical twists and turns of the 20th century. The Incarnation Blues Band took this to heart, and when they walked into the  studio in 1981, the living apparition of Johnson went with them. The IBB’s wise and reverent takes on Johnson’s repertoire are filled with the warmth and passion of Johnson’s playing, and also more than a hint of its danger.

 Grounding their set in authentic acoustic takes like “Crossroads Blues” and  “If I Had Possession Over Judgment Day,” the band then frees itself to bring modernity and innovation to bear. They fearlessly throw the whole 20th century in to the pot: rock, funk, even a touch of country swing (who knew there were new ways to listen to “Sweet Home Chicago?”) In the end, the project bears out the fruits of its premise: Robert Johnson never really went away. He’s been with us all along, in the beating heart of American music. This inspired album is proof positive.

 

Mike Mattison/Derek Trucks

Tedeschi Trucks Band