Sunday, February 17, 2008

Son's Fires Still Burned Hot

It has 15 years since Columbia, based on the success of its Robert Johnson set, issued a variety of excellent blues reissues. One of note was the double CD of Son House, Father of the Delta Blues — The Complete 1965 Sessions. Here is my review from late 1992 Jazz & Blues Report. I have seen a few reviews on amazon note his earlier recordings were better performances, but still when Son started singing, the voice just went through you like a hurricane. This is the blues at its most basic. The CD set is still available.

The most direct influence on Robert Johnson is sometimes said to be Eddie “Son” House. Columbia/Legacy has reissued House’s Father of the Delta Blues — The Complete 1965 Sessions, a double compact disc that reissues the original album on one disc with the second disc devoted to alternate takes and other songs. Son House was one of the most riveting vocalists the blues ever had, and in his prime, a master of the bottleneck. These recordings were made not long after the discovery of House in Rochester, New York. House had not played in a long period of time which is reflected in the rustiness of his performances and the slight stiffness in his playing and singing. This is evident in President Kennedy, a recasting of House’s Library of Congress recording of American Defense, that was inspired by the assassination of the President. The originally released recordings of Death Letter, Preachin’ Blues, Pearline and Empire State Express and the acappella spirituals John the Relevator and Grinning in Your Face are as compelling as ever. House, who also was a preacher, is the singer most folk delta blues wannabes use as their paradigm, but their intensity seems forced compared to the real thing. The first disc is a highpoint of country blues of the past three decades. The second disc, however, is primarily for collectors and completists.

No comments: