left behind so many recordings, that no single volume could possibly encompass an introduction to his sound -- that said, this 20-song compilation, made up principally of sides recorded in the second half of the '20s, augmented with a handful from the '30s and the start of the '40s, is a superb showcase for Johnson
's virtuosity and range, encompassing elements of jazz that set his playing apart from most of the competition. Apart from some hiss on "Rocks in My Bed" and "To Do This, You Got to Know How" (from 1926, no less), the sound is surprisingly high quality, so that you can practically hear the action on the guitar on "6/88 Glide" and on "Four Hands Are Better Than Two," both from 1927, and the ringing chords opening "Hot Fingers" (a duet with guitarist Eddie Lang
) leap out of the speakers, before the two players begin an intimate dialogue on their instruments; the two join in a much slower, moodier (but equally impressive) duet on "Blue Room Blues." The collection gives, roughly, space to vocal numbers and instrumentals. The annotation provides a reasonably thorough overview of Johnson
's life and career, and the sessionography explains the origins and personnel behind each track.