"The Complete Recordings," a two-disc box set containing all 29 songs that Johnson recorded, as well as 12 alternate takes.
"King of the Delta Blues," a 16-track, single-disc compilation featuring the best-known tracks from two vinyl volumes, "King of the Delta Blues Singers." Both of those have now been reissued on CD as well, with upgraded sound. Any of the three provides a good entry-level collection.
"Back to the Crossroads: The Roots of Robert Johnson." The Yazoo label has culled 23 vintage recordings by such key influences as Son House, Skip James, Peetie Wheatstraw and Kokomo Arnold, showing how much Johnson borrowed, adapted and sometimes appropriated outright (notably Lonnie Johnson's vocal and instrumental arrangements) in the creation of his own work.
"Escaping the Delta: Robert Johnson and the Invention of the Blues." Published in January, Elijah Wald's book combines a biography of Johnson, a critical analysis and revisionist study of his music and legend, and a revealing overview of the history of blues music.
"Robert Johnson: Lost and Found," by Barry Lee Pearson and Bill McCulloch. Published last year, it examines the myths that have obscured the facts of Johnson's life, through extensive new research and the deconstruction of previous writings about the bluesman. Both books explore how Johnson's music and legend have been interpreted by musicians, critics and fans.
-- Richard Harrington