Blind Brand X Black Dog Blues

Several months ago, I received a disc from a decidedly mysterious figure called Ragtime Ralph, containing reputed recordings from the '30s. Of course it was a put-on but there was no denying that whoever this was, he could play solo acoustic blues as well as anyone. It's with a slight tinge of disappointment that Ragtime Ralph's identity has at least partially been revealed with this follow-up, although Vancouver scene veteran RC Johnston goes a step further under his Blind Brand X alias, extending beyond the blues and crafting even more astonishing pieces merely for that reason. Johnston's primary inspiration here is his late, beloved pooch, but he also takes the opportunity to once again pay tribute to his more obvious mentor: the late John Fahey. Unlike the Ragtime Ralph disc, the recording of Black Dog Blues is beautifully crisp — even the handful of live tracks — and together the two records paint an endlessly fascinating portrait of an extremely talented musician who has remained inexplicably undiscovered. (Empty Square)