Very much following in the footsteps of Reinhard Kleist’s I See a Darkness and Nick Hayes’ Woody Guthrie and the Dustbowl Ballads, Mezzo and JM Dupont’s Love in Vain fixes its evil eye on legendary Blues singer Robert Johnson. The story (we should probably say, ‘the legend’) is relatively well known: born in 1911, died 27 years later of poisoning (Johnson being something of a ladies’ man, he was allegedly poisoned by an angry boyfriend); in between times tales tell of him selling his soul to the devil after a night time meeting. It wasn’t until the release of King of the Delta Blues Singers in 1961 that his reputation was enshrined and the likes of Eric Clapton talked him up as the Blues god he was.
Mezzo and Dupont’s book is a stylish affair, the telling of which drips with acid, the origin of which isn’t apparent until the last page (and it’s funny, as you read you will notice time and again that the narrator seems to intrude, offering asides that make you wonder just who it is doing the actual talking – don’t worry, you find out and its extremely satisfying, we won’t give it away here). Johnson comes across as a poor boy who grew up into a womanising user, in some respects – a creature of his time, you might say. Mezzo’s art is black and white but lushly detailed. He ensures we are inches away from history, both the lows (Johnson “suffers for his faith”, and one particular image – of Johnson on his knees by a railroad track – sticks in the memory) and the highs (whether those highs are musical or sexual, both of which feature prominently).
Any Cop?: You don’t necessarily have to be a huge fan or know all that much about Johnson himself to get a kick out of Mezzo and Dupont’s book.