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The Albums of 2009: Dark Was The Night

November 2, 2009


In 1927 Blind Willie Johnson signed with Columbia records and recorded around thirty songs from 1927–1930. One of his most emotionally stirring and moving songs, titled “Dark Was The Night” — a “hum and moan” song about the crucifixtion of Jesus — is said to have inspired such great blues masters as Robert Johnson and Skip James.

Therefore, it is only fitting that this song and the artist who wrote it are the inspiration for the 20th compilation album benefiting The Red Hot Organization, an international charity with the purpose of “fighting AIDS through pop culture”.

This compilation features most of the who’s who in the international indie folk and rock music scenes, featuring such acts as The Arcade Fire, The National, and Beirut; collabs of Grizzly Bear working with Feist, among others; and last, but certainly not least, a hauntingly intimate cover of Bob Dylan’s “I Was Young When I Left Home” by Antony (with Bryce Dessner). Basically, if you’re a coffeehouse-going, Bright Eyes-rocking, modern indie folk lover, this is probably the compilation of your dreams.

But the most interesting song among the Cat Powers and My Morning Jackets littered throughout this compilation could be Kronos Quartet’s cover of Blind Willie Johnson’s previously mentioned blues masterpiece. That may be obvious, since it is the name of the compilation, after all. But it is interesting for the fact that Kronos Quartet is able to keep the heavy late 20’s dread of southern depression blues while adding the fear and dread of the modern day depression felt around the world, especially in AIDS-stricken countries. The dissonance and nearly uncomfortable and unpleasant way the quartet performs this song leaves you with a sense of concern, but also, hopefully, with a sense of wanting to do more for your fellow man.

Whether you’re the aforementioned character who loves Iron and Wine (also on the compilation) and all artists of that nature, or if you’d just like to chip in some money for a good cause, Dark Was The Night is what you’re looking for.

Disc 1:
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Disc 2:
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