The word ‘great’ is overused, but few would disagree that it is properly applied to the Delta Blues of Eddie “Son” House. House was one of the most riveting blues performers that ever recorded and performed. Dick Waterman, who used to book and manage House after he was discovered in Rochester NY has stated “Son House was the core of greatness of blues artists. There were many who had great talent but Son House was the standard by which they would be measured.” Those words can be found in the booklet to a new release, Son House in Seattle 1968 (Arcola Records).
This is a double CD that is subtitled 2 cds - concert and interview. The first CD is Son in concert in March, 1968 when he appeared under the auspices of the Seattle Folklore Society while the second disc is taken from a radio interview that Bob West conducted with him interspersed with original recordings by Son along with associates like Louise Johnson, Charlie Patton, Willie Brown, Rube Lacy and Robert Johnson.
In the accompanying booklet Bob Groom observes, about the concert performance, that it was unusual in the amount of speaking and story telling the House engages in between the performances of Death Letter Blues, Government Fleet Blues, Empire State, I Want to Live So God Can Use Me, Preachin’ Blues, and Louise McGee. No blues performer was more compelling that Son and he was in top form this day. From his forceful guitar to his vocals that bore open his soul, there are some extraordinary performances including Death Letter and the a capella I Want to Live So God Can Use Me. The lengthy spoken interludes are invaluable in giving a fuller sense of him than the driving musical performances alone. This concert predates Son suffering frostbite in the Winter 1969 that affected his use of fingers in his fretting hand.
The second disc is valuable for his lengthy recollections of his blues contemporaries. Included is a wonderful booklet with Dick Waterman’s cogent recollections of Son and Bob Groom’s lengthy overview of Son’s life and music. While Father of Folk Blues on Columbia (now Sony) remains the essential 1960s Son House release, fans of the deepest Delta blues will obviously want this. Son’s musical fires were burning brightly in Seattle during this 1968 visit and we should be grateful that Arcola has issued this wonderful package. Arcola’s website is www.arcolarecords.com, and www.bluebeatmusic.com and other retailers should have this.
This was reviewed from a CD I purchased.